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Sabra Express | Diplomatic Dawn

Times of Israel, September 30th, 2023


Recap:

Israel and Saudi Arabia are moving toward a historic US-brokered deal to normalize relations.


The Context:

· Saudi Arabia has never recognized Israel and long insisted it would not do so without an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. The Kingdom did not join the US-brokered Abraham Accords, which saw its Gulf neighbors Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates establish formal ties with Israel in 2020 [1]. US President Joe Biden hopes to transform the Middle East — and score an election-year diplomatic victory — by securing Riyadh’s recognition of the Jewish state. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has made it a priority to transform the Kingdom’s economy away from dependence on oil revenues into a hub for business, tourism, and culture.

· Terms of a potential deal include US-Saudi defense, nuclear and arm agreements as well as parallel peace discussions with Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) [2]. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that Israel was “at the cusp” of a transformative peace agreement that “will go a long way to ending the Arab Israeli conflict.”

· Democratic senators say any diplomatic pact between Saudi Arabia and Israel would require a commitment from Israel to preserve “the option of a two-state solution” [3] -concessions that are beyond the scope of what Netanyahu’s coalition is likely to approve [4]. Since it took office last year, Israel’s government announced Israeli settlement expansions, making the prospects of a Palestinian state even more remote [5].

· Democrats also expressed concern over an overarching US-Saudi treaty since historically, security guarantees have only been provided to US allies and not “authoritarian regime[s] which regularly undermine U.S. interests in the region [6].” Full Democratic support is essential since Biden requires bi-partisan backing to secure 67 of 100 votes in the Senate to pass the treaty [7].


Conversation Points:

· Can an Israeli-Saudi Arabia deal be achieved independent of a US agreement?

· Could a peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel serve as the catalyst for most Arab states to normalize relations with Israel?

· Is an Israeli-Saudi Arabia deal feasible without first achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement?

· Given the division of leadership between Hamas in Gaza and the PA in the West Bank, can either faction fully represent the Palestinian people in these discussions?


Notes:

2. US reps secretly visited Saudi Arabia to discuss Israel - report Barak Ravid, Jerusalem Post, OCTOBER 4th, 2023.

3. Democrats Tell Biden Saudi-Israel Pact Needs Concessions for Palestinians, Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, October 4th, 2023.

4. Saudi deal should include West Bank settlement freeze - US Senators say, TOVAH LAZAROFF, Jerusalem Post, OCTOBER 4th, 2023.

5. Democrats Tell Biden Saudi-Israel Pact Needs Concessions for Palestinians, Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, October 4th, 2023.

6. 20 Senate Democrats lay out conditions for Israel, Saudi Arabia peace, Laura Kelly, The Hill, October 4th, 2023.

7. Saudi deal should include West Bank settlement freeze - US Senators say, TOVAH LAZAROFF, Jerusalem Post, OCTOBER 4th, 2023.


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