Israel is expressing urgency in finalizing a US-backed normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia before President Joe Biden’s term ends. Israeli media reports suggest that Israel has been sending messages to Riyadh, emphasizing the importance of securing a deal while there is still a possibility for bipartisan support. Israel believes that it would be more challenging to garner support from Democrats if the agreement is associated with former President Donald Trump, de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed Bin Salman, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Saudis have reportedly requested a mutual defense agreement with the United States, advanced defense technology, and a civilian nuclear program. To satisfy the Saudis’ demands, a formal treaty rather than a presidential decree would be necessary to provide sufficient security. Treaties require two-thirds support in the Senate.
While Senate Republicans may not be inclined to grant Biden a significant diplomatic win before the upcoming elections, Israeli officials believe that they would ultimately support a peace agreement due to lobbying efforts from pro-Israel organizations.
Washington has been actively pushing for an Israel-Saudi normalization deal, citing its potential benefits to US national security. In recent years, Saudi Arabia and other pro-Western Gulf states have sought to balance their relationships with Iran and China as US attention shifts to the Asia-Pacific region and Russia. An agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia could lead to a large aid package for Palestinian institutions, a rollback of the Saudi-China relationship, and efforts to end the civil war in Yemen.
The status of the talks and Israel’s involvement remain unclear. National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi recently cautioned against setting high expectations, suggesting that the discussions have not reached a stage where a comprehensive deal is being negotiated. However, President Biden hinted at potential progress, and his top national security aides visited Riyadh to discuss the agreement.
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen remarked that Israel is closer than ever to achieving a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has long prioritized a normalization deal with the Saudis and believes it could potentially resolve both the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
While Biden pledged during his campaign to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for human rights abuses and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have warmed recently. Biden’s visit to both Israel and Saudi Arabia in 2022 aimed to solidify understandings on various issues, including increased oil production and strengthening the alliance in a changing geopolitical landscape.
Source: The Times of Israel