Shall Saudi Arabia normalize relations with Israel?


Recently, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Saudi Arabia on a mission to steady Washington’s relationship with Riyadh after years of deepening disagreements on issues ranging from Iran and regional security. The top US diplomat’s visit to the world’s largest oil exporter took place days after Riyadh pledged to further cut oil production, a move likely to add tension to a US-Saudi relationship. During this visit, Blinken also tried to convince Saudi Arabia in normalizing relations with Israel without resolving the existing issues between Israel and Palestine.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel, a priority for Joe Biden’s administration, was at the heart of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Riyadh from June 6 to 8.

The Americans have given themselves until the end of the year, before being caught up in the 2024 presidential campaign, to make progress on this issue, which is also a priority for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Saudi monarchy, which is in return negotiating for increased military cooperation with Washington and support for its civilian nuclear program, is showing signs of opening up.

“It’s quite clear that we believe that normalization [with Israel] is in the interest of the region, that it would bring significant benefits to all”, said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan. “But without finding a pathway to peace for the Palestinian people, without addressing that challenge, any normalization will have limited benefits.  And therefore, I think we should continue to focus on finding a pathway toward a two-state solution, on finding a pathway toward giving the Palestinians dignity and justice”, he added.

The choice of words is not insignificant. By speaking of a simple “pathway to peace”, the Saudi foreign minister seems to be indicating that Riyadh is prepared to scale down its demands: The creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders would no longer be a prerequisite for normalization with Israel.

But, Saudi ambassador in Washington, Fahad Nazer, amid intensified US efforts to broker a peace agreement between Jerusalem and Riyadh reiterated that the Kingdom will not normalize ties with Israel until a Palestinian state is established.

Whatever ambassador Fahad Nazer may say in public, there surely is silent process of normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, as Biden administration is considering it as priority, which would be one of the major achievements of the US President Joe Biden and he would certainly use it during his reelection campaign.

According to numerous sources, Biden administration is also putting priority on convincing a number of non-Arab Muslim nations, including Bangladesh in recognizing Israel and establishing full diplomatic relations. Once Dhaka agrees to this approach of Washington, Biden administration would step-back from its current focuses on Bangladesh’s forthcoming general election and few other issues, while recently announce visa policy for Bangladesh may also put on hold indefinitely. But in this case, the ruling Awami League may come under tremendous pressure from local Islamist forces including Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ideological ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) as these parties are looking for turning a secularist Bangladesh into an Islamic republic.

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