Reuters / September 21, 2023
JERUSALEM – A framework U.S.-brokered deal for forging relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia could be in place by early next year, the Israeli foreign minister said on Thursday after the three countries signaled progress in the complex negotiations.
An Israeli-Saudi normalization would dramatically redraw the Middle East by formally bringing together two major U.S. partners in the face of Iran – a foreign-policy flourish for President Joe Biden as he seeks reelection in late 2024.
Biden voiced optimism about the prospects in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the U.N. general assembly on Wednesday. Separately, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said “every day we get closer” to a deal.
But a Rubik’s cube of tie-in issues looms. Riyadh’s quest for a civilian nuclear program tests U.S. and Israeli policy. Saudi and U.S. calls for the Palestinians to make gains under any deal are unpalatable for Netanyahu’s hard-right government.
“The gaps can be bridged,” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told Israel’s Army Radio. “It will take time. But there is progress.”
“I think there is certainly a likelihood that, in the first quarter of 2024, four or five months hence, we will be able to be in at a point where the details (of a deal) are finalized.”
Such a timeline could enable the Biden administration to get through a review period in the U.S. Congress and Senate and clinch ratification ahead of the November presidential ballot.
Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Bernadette Baum