Netanyahu ‘considering’ Saudi nuclear program in exchange for normalization

Middle East Monitor  /  September 21, 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is studying the possibility of accepting Saudi Arabia’s request to enrich uranium and have a nuclear program for non-military purposes, as part of a possible normalization agreement between the two countries, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Netanyahu is said to have instructed senior officials in Israel to hold talks on this issue with the Biden administration in Washington to find a formula that would be acceptable to Saudi Arabia, the US and the occupation state.

The report coincided with statements by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman that his country is “close” to normalizing relations with Israel. “We get closer every day,” he added. US President Joe Biden and Netanyahu this week “pledged” to work towards normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

According to the Journal, this is a dramatic change in the Israeli position on the issue of a Saudi Arabian nuclear program. It noted that this will be met with objections in Jerusalem and Washington, as senators and nuclear experts strongly oppose the Saudi request.

There is no need to obtain a nuclear weapon because it is impossible to use

Bin Salman said that if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia will have to keep pace with it and establish a nuclear project. He told Fox New that the Kingdom is concerned about “any country” getting a nuclear weapon. That’s a bad move, he insisted. “There is no need to obtain a nuclear weapon because it is impossible to use. Even if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, [if] any country uses a nuclear weapon that means they are having a war with the rest of the world.” Nevertheless, he said that if Iran does get nuclear weapon capabilities, Saudi Arabia will have to do the same.

The US and Saudi Arabia have discussed the outlines of a normalization deal under which Saudi Arabia would recognize Israel and in return, among other things, the Americans would help the Kingdom develop a civilian nuclear program, which could make Saudi Arabia the second country in the Middle East to enrich uranium. Other conditions for the proposed normalization deal include US security guarantees and concessions for the Palestinians. No such conditions have yet been agreed by Israel, though.