Israel and Saudi Arabia continue to grow closer independently


During the initial years of the Biden administration, there was a reluctance to even mention the “Abraham Accords”, let alone take any steps to build upon the Trump administration’s foreign-policy achievements. However, recent months have witnessed a shift in the Biden administration’s approach, with efforts to promote normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Nevertheless, the growing closeness between these two nations is not primarily due to President Joe Biden or Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The evidence of this burgeoning relationship was prominently displayed when two Israeli ministers from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government visited Saudi Arabia recently. Tourism Minister Haim Katz became the first Israeli cabinet member to be granted an entry visa by the Saudis when he attended a conference of the UN World Tourism Organization. Subsequently, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi led a delegation to Riyadh, including a fellow Knesset member, to participate in a religious service for Sukkot.

The images of an Israeli politician in Saudi Arabia, clad in a tallit and holding a lulav and etrog, were remarkable, especially considering how unthinkable such a scenario would have been just a few years ago. Equally surprising was the openness of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in discussing normalization with Israel. In a recent interview with Fox News, Saudi Crown Prince emphasized that they are getting closer every day.

While obstacles remain, such as the appointment of ambassadors and symbolic issues, the main takeaway is that the Biden administration’s role in this development has been limited. Unlike the Trump administration, which was instrumental in driving diplomatic progress leading to the Abraham Accords, Biden and Blinken may be more of a hindrance than a help to the Israel-Saudi relationship.

American diplomacy in this regard highlights the Biden administration’s adherence to failed policies of the past, particularly those influenced by veterans of the Obama administration. Their insistence on involving Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, rekindling the stagnant peace process, and pursuing a two-state solution fails to recognize why normalization between Israel and Arab states is even possible.

Arab nations, particularly MBS and others, understand that the Palestinians have shown no genuine interest in making peace with Israel. They are tired of having their security and national interests held hostage by Palestinian political leadership that remains committed to a century-old war against Zionism.

The American push to include the Palestinians in any agreement appears to be more about undermining Netanyahu’s government than genuinely pursuing peace. This brings us to the motives behind Biden’s recent interest in Israel-Saudi peace.

First, Biden seeks to prevent the Saudis from turning to China for assistance with Iran and to secure a consistent oil supply for a country that relinquished energy independence for environmental reasons but now faces energy shortages due to sanctions on Russia.

Second, Biden is pursuing a foreign-policy success as he heads into a challenging re-election campaign, where polls show him either tied with or trailing former President Donald Trump.

This is not a repeat of Barack Obama’s 2012 election-year pivot on Israel. Obama, who had created “daylight” between the US and Israel in his first term, shifted his approach to win Jewish votes. However, liberal Jewish voters remained loyal to him despite his subsequent appeasement of Iran.

Biden is less concerned about Jewish voters, as the likelihood of an overwhelmingly liberal Jewish population voting for a Republican, let alone Trump, is remote. Instead, he seeks a foreign-policy achievement to bolster his re-election campaign. His top priority upon taking office was reviving the Iran nuclear deal, but the Iranians refused to cooperate with a president they perceived as overly accommodating.

Recent developments indicate that Iran’s nuclear program has reached a point where they can assemble a nuclear weapon quickly, despite Western and Israeli efforts to prevent it.

As Muhammad bin Salman stated, the Saudis won’t allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon without pursuing one themselves. However, the Saudi wish list presented to the US, including assistance in establishing a nuclear program, is unlikely to materialize, as most Democrats oppose such an alliance with Saudi Arabia.

While the Saudis may pay lip service to the Palestinians, Saudi Crown Prince’s government appears disinterested in creating another independent Palestinian state. His interview with Fox News mentioned easing Palestinian lives but omitted any reference to a two-state solution or Israeli territorial concessions. These objectives are largely advocated by Biden’s team.

Biden is thus caught in a dilemma. He desires a diplomatic victory but is hampered by his team’s focus on undermining Netanyahu and salvaging the Iran deal. This leaves his Middle East policy in disarray. Nevertheless, Israel and Saudi Arabia continue to grow closer independently, bound by shared national interests and informal alliances, even without a formal treaty.


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