Israel: official claims Saudi priority for normalization is US security guarantee not Palestine

Middle East Monitor  /  September 5, 2023

A senior Israeli official has said that further progress in normalizing ties between Saudi Arabia and the occupation state hinges on the kingdom securing defence guarantees from the US, The Times of Israel has reported. The unnamed official is involved deeply in diplomatic efforts, and said that the Saudis are focused foremost on getting a defence pact with the US. Riyadh views Washington’s security assurances as pivotal to advance the normalization process with the apartheid state.

The official is reported as saying that another “four to five” unresolved issues remain but are less complex. American and Palestinian delegations are traveling to Saudi Arabia this week to continue US-brokered negotiations on a potential normalization agreement.

Israeli concessions to the Palestinians are not, it is claimed, the chief Saudi focus, but the Saudi-US defence pact is. Israel’s far-right government is expected to fall in line if a deal with the Saudis can be struck.

Critics who have slammed the parameters of the reported deal argue that US-led efforts are misguided, especially as it requires an American pledge that is likely to see US soldiers killed in defence of Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the plan rewards Israel despite its appalling human rights abuses and illegal occupation while abandoning legitimate Palestinian rights and self-determination. True progress, says the deal’s critics, requires accountability and an end to Israel’s practice of apartheid, not just further support.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes he can rally his hard-line coalition behind any concessions needed, the official said, despite partners opposing Palestinian statehood or sovereignty.

Netanyahu himself has reportedly vowed not to take any steps with the Palestinians that senior Israeli officials would be uncomfortable with. Despite his assurances, just like the far-right members of his coalition the Israeli Prime Minister is himself ideologically opposed to a Palestinian state and has proposed solutions that denies the right of self-determination to millions of non-Jews.

The Israeli leader is seeking to meet US President Joe Biden in Washington but has yet to visit since returning to office last December. The two leaders are expected to meet at the UN General Assembly in New York this month, although details remain unclear.