Last Updated: September 20, 2023, 13:32 IST
The United States on Monday denied a report in a Saudi-owned newspaper that Riyadh had frozen normalization talks with Israel because it refuses to rule out concessions to Palestinians.
The US State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs denied such reports by saying, “The United States remains committed to furthering Israel’s regional integration, including through active diplomacy aimed at Israel-Saudi normalization. Talks are ongoing, and we look forward to further conversations with both parties.”
According to a report in London-based Elaph newspaper, Saudi Arabia reportedly conveyed to the Joe Biden administration its decision to suspend discussions regarding the normalization of relations with Israel.
The US have for months sought to reach the historic agreement that would be a huge step towards settling the Israel-Palestine conflict and changing the geopolitics in the Middle East.
What Normalisation Would Mean?
Saudi Arabia hasn’t recognized Israel as a state and refused to do so ever since the formation of the nation in 1948. But after decades of tension, there has been growing cooperation between the two nations in the recent years.
The two nations have also shared threat from Iran, which has been a longtime common adversary. However, Saudi’s relations with Iran has eased recently after efforts from China.
Amid the changing geopolitical scenarios, the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel are engaged in complex negotiations in which the US would offer security guarantees to Saudi Arabia, which in turn would normalize relations with Israel. Israel would also take actions aimed at preserving the possibility of a Palestinian state.
The normalisation would also mean that Israel would be part of joints projects between nations in the Middle East.
What are the Concerns?
As per reports, Saudi Arabia had communicated through the United States that the “extremist” character of Israel’s right-wing government is obstructing any potential improvement in relations with the Palestinians, consequently affecting ties with Saudi Arabia.
Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Saudi Arabia had communicated to the Biden administration that addressing Palestinian concerns is a pivotal factor in any potential agreement for normalizing relations with Israel.
The current nationalist government led by Benjamin Netanyahu is the most right-wing government in its history and appears hostile to the idea.
It is also widely believed that the Palestinian part of the negotiations will be among the most challenging as it appears very unlikely that Israel would meet Saudi demands for concessions to the Palestinians. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that he would take no steps that would endanger Israel’s security.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia wants a security guarantee from the US against potential attacks and also wants more access to advanced weapons and help with a civilian nuclear program, according to CNBC.
But the US seems adamant to break the deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia as it could dramatically reshape the geopolitics of the Middle East and also prove beneficial for Biden as he heads for re-election.
What Lies Ahead?
The Joe Biden administration is also discussing the terms of a defense treaty with Saudi Arabia to create a military pact that and normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, according to a report in The New York Times.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet US President Joe Biden on Wednesday for the first time since being re-elected and Saudi normalization process and concerns about Iran are considered to be brought up in the agenda.
Earlier Biden has withheld an invite to the White House and the pair will instead meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly of New York.