update deskMiddle East

US: ‘Basic framework’ for Israel-Saudi peace in place

Last week, Tourism Minister Haim Katz became the first Israeli minister to publicly visit the kingdom.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 7, 2023. Source: Twitter.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 7, 2023. Source: Twitter.

Jerusalem and Riyadh have “hammered out” the contours of a possible American-mediated normalization agreement, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Friday.

“All sides have hammered out, I think, a basic framework for what, you know, what we might be able to drive at,” he said, amid an ongoing effort to bring the Sunni kingdom into the Abraham Accords.

The Trump administration-brokered accords normalized relations between Israel and four Arab nations: The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

“As in any complex arrangement, as this will inevitably be, everybody is going to have to do something. And everybody is going to have to compromise on some things,” added Kirby.

Saudi Arabia is not conditioning a peace deal with Israel on the establishment of a Palestinian state, Reuters reported over the weekend.

As part of an agreement, the Palestinians could nonetheless receive a huge influx of Saudi aid as well as Israeli concessions that would fall short of statehood, said the report, citing three unnamed regional officials.

Last week, Tourism Minister Haim Katz became the first Israeli Cabinet minister to be granted an entry visa by the Saudi government, arriving in Riyadh to participate in a conference of the United Nations World Tourism Organization and mark World Tourism Day, celebrated annually on Sept. 27.

Concurrently, a delegation headed by Saudi Ambassador to Jordan Nayef al-Sudairi, Riyadh’s first-ever non-resident envoy to the P.A. and consul general to Jerusalem, traveled to Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas.

The developments came shortly after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a rare interview with Fox News that normalization with Israel was “getting closer every day,” and that the kingdom could join the Abraham Accords “with the support from President [Joe] Biden’s administration to get to that point.”

The interview aired the same day that Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

“I think that under your leadership, Mr. President, we can forge a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” said Netanyahu.

“And I think such a peace would go a long way first to advance the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, achieve reconciliation between the Islamic world and the Jewish state, and advance a genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The Wall Street Journal reported the same week that Netanyahu instructed his country’s leading nuclear and security specialists to work with U.S. negotiators to find a compromise that lets Saudi Arabia enrich uranium.

Israeli officials are “quietly working” with the White House to develop a “U.S.-run, uranium-enrichment operation” in Saudi Arabia for a civilian nuclear program, a key condition of the kingdom for accepting a normalization agreement with Israel, officials from both countries told the Journal.

Netanyahu has repeatedly said that bringing Saudi Arabia into the Abraham Accords would constitute a “quantum leap” for peace in the Middle East.

In his address to the U.N. General Assembly, he said that a deal with Riyadh would have far-reaching implications, including encouraging other Arab nations to normalize relations with Israel.

He called the Abraham Accords “a pivot of history” and said the whole world is reaping their benefits. “All these are tremendous blessings,” said the premier.

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