update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

US conditions Israel-Saudi talks on halt to judicial reform

Washington also demands restarting peace talks with the Palestinians in exchange for advancing normalization efforts.

U.S. President Joe Biden boards Air Force One for Saudi Arabia at Ben-Gurion Airport, July 15, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
U.S. President Joe Biden boards Air Force One for Saudi Arabia at Ben-Gurion Airport, July 15, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The White House is demanding that Israel shelve its judicial reform plans in exchange for American support for a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia, according to Israeli media reports.

Washington, along with Riyadh, is also conditioning advancement of the talks on restarting long-dormant negotiations with the Palestinians, according to Channel 12.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday told Israeli media that the raft of bills designed to overhaul the country’s legal system would return to the Knesset after the passage of the state budget, and President Isaac Herzog continues to host negotiations between the coalition and opposition on a political compromise.

Israeli lawmaker Danny Danon, chairman of World Likud and former ambassador to the United Nations, criticized the U.S. demands.

“We respect our friends in the U.S. but Israel’s policy will be determined by us. Normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia is a regional interest, but we must not advance our relations in the wake of an ultimatum,” he said.

Abraham Accords partner Bahrain has been brokering telephone diplomacy between Jerusalem and Riyadh, coordinating a recent call between Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss normalization.

Prince Mohammed said last week at the 2023 Arab League Summit in Jeddah that the Palestinians remain the “central issue of the Arab countries and is at the top of the kingdom’s priorities.”

“We will not delay in providing assistance to the Palestinian people in recovering their lands, restoring their legitimate rights and establishing an independent state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” said the crown prince.

Saudi Arabia is also reportedly laying out a series of demands for the United States in exchange for normalization with Israel, including a compromise on arms deals halted by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, a defense alliance with the United States and a full nuclear program.

“In general, we support Israel’s integration in the Middle East region, including normalization with Saudi Arabia,” said U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, without specifically commenting on the Israel-Saudi negotiation reports, which he said Washington was aware of.

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