update deskMiddle East

Blinken discussed US-Saudi-Israel deal during Jeddah visit

The American diplomat spoke with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about recognizing the Jewish state.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, March 20, 2024. Source: X/Secretary Antony Blinken.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, March 20, 2024. Source: X/Secretary Antony Blinken.

During U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, he discussed with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman the American-Saudi component of a larger plan that would see Riyadh recognize Israel.

A senior State Department official traveling with Blinken on his Mideast trip told the Associated Press that the pair talked about the bilateral portion of the deal, with only a “handful of issues” remaining to be resolved.

The potential deal would reportedly include U.S. defense guarantees and assistance in building a domestic civilian nuclear program for the kingdom. Saudi Arabia would normalize relations with Israel in exchange for a pathway to a Palestinian state, something the majority of Israelis oppose and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said is off the table.

Blinken was in Cairo on Thursday, where he was set to meet with Arab foreign ministers to discuss broader security guarantees for Israel, as part of the larger deal with Saudi Arabia. The diplomats are also expected to discuss plans for Arab countries to play a role in the reconstruction and governance of Gaza after Israel defeats Hamas in the current war.

The top American diplomat will visit Israel on Friday to discuss the ceasefire negotiations, the release of the hostages held in Gaza, American opposition to the Rafah military operation that the IDF is preparing to undertake and increasing humanitarian aid into the Strip.

It will be Blinken’s eighth visit to Israel since the start of the war on Oct. 7.

A ceasefire deal between Israel and the Hamas terrorist group is “getting closer,” Blinken said on Wednesday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“I think the gaps are narrowing, and I think an agreement is very much possible. We worked very hard with Qatar, with Egypt and with Israel to put a strong proposal on the table. We did that; Hamas wouldn’t accept it. They came back with other requests, other demands,” Blinken told Christiane Baissary of the Saudi-based Al Hadath newspaper, according to a State Department transcript of the interview.

“The negotiators are working on that right now. But I believe it’s very much doable, and it’s very much necessary,” he added.

An Israeli delegation led by Mossad Director David Barnea departed for Doha on Monday afternoon for another round of talks.

Nevertheless, Jerusalem remains pessimistic that an agreement can be reached.

Last week, Netanyahu called the latest Hamas demands “absurd,” yet still agreed to send negotiators to Qatar.

On Wednesday, Blinken confirmed that the Biden administration was circulating a draft U.N. Security Council resolution “pressing for an immediate ceasefire tied to the release of hostages.”

Hamas captured 253 hostages during its invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, 134 of whom are still being held by the terrorist group.

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