Over the weekend, new reports from Washington and Riyadh revealed that Biden administration officials have been making trips to Saudi Arabia to push for normalization between the Arab state and Israel.
According to reports, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk have engaged in talks with reigning Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) over normalizing relations with Israel, an issue that current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu hopes to resolve soon.
Some experts argue that normalization between Riyadh and Jerusalem will only come once the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been resolved, but sources familiar with Israeli security issues in the region say it is possible that the Saudis are not actually interested in dealing with the Palestinians or placing any sort of preconditions on the Israelis.
According to Israeli officials, should the two sides normalize relations, it would make a major statement in support of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Speaking to his conservative coalition in his weekly meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the “One Israel” project, a high-speed train linking Kiryat Shmona in Israel’s north with its furthermost southern city of Eilat, which could extend to outside Israel in a potential Israeli-Saudi normalization.
“In the future, we will be able to transport cargoes of goods by train from Eilat to our ports in the Mediterranean Sea, and we will also be able to connect Israel by train to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula. We are working on that too,” Netanyahu said.
Washington officials have also underscored the growing ties between Saudi Arabia, China, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, trying to convince Riyadh to break off relations between the two anti-American regimes.
In conversations with United States officials, Riyadh has raised a potential defense agreement with Washington, obligating the U.S. to defend the Saudis should they be attacked.
In the past few months, Saudi officials have been in talks with their American counterparts for a potential agreement for a civilian nuclear program monitored and backed by the U.S. and with the ability to purchase more advanced weaponry from Washington, including the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antiballistic missile defense system.
Should a normalization agreement come this year, experts say it would be a significant change in the Middle East, uniting one of the most powerful Arab monarchies with the Jewish state of Israel.
During the Trump administration, the U.S. helped broker normalization deals between Israel and moderate Arab nations, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Morocco, and Bahrain, opening new economic and military possibilities and aligning against rising Islamic terrorism backed by Iran’s regime.