Saudi-Israel normalization in exchange for nuclear arsenal ?

Mohammad Makram Balawi

Middle East Monitor  /  September 26, 2023

Since Benjamin Netanyahu assumed the presidency of the new Israeli government, US President Joe Biden has refrained from inviting him to visit the White House due to tensions between the two following the rise of the far-right religious government in Israel that seeks to change the shape of the Zionist state and its priorities.

However, recently, the two parties met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, where Netanyahu attempted to get closer to Biden and win him over. He referred to him as a “leader” and emphasized that under his leadership, Israel would achieve great accomplishments.

Netanyahu also praised Biden’s announcement during the G20 Summit held in the Indian capital, New Delhi, that an economic corridor connecting India with the Middle East and Europe would be established. The proposed corridor would extend across the sea from India to the United Arab Emirates, then pass through Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel before reaching Europe. This, Netanyahu believes, would have a significant impact on the normalization efforts with Saudi Arabia and, ultimately, the normalization with the rest of the Islamic world.

The idea of US leadership and Netanyahu’s statements confirm that Israel sees itself as subservient to Washington and Western countries, indicating that the occupation state will continue to rely on the West for its existence and that it is fundamentally not an independent state but a Western colonial project. Netanyahu’s attempt to approach China and Russia will never be as fruitful as he hopes, because all of them know perfectly well which side Israel would choose should a confrontation arise.

Biden, on the other hand, repeated his statement: “If Israel did not exist, we would have to invent it.” His insistence on this phrase implies holding Washington responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian people and implicates the US in the crimes committed against them, thus denying America’s role as honest mediator.

Now, the US is hosting talks to achieve the normalization of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia; and these appear to have stalled at the idea of granting Riyadh the ability to become a nuclear power. Some parties suggest that Saudi Arabia’s acquisition of nuclear power is a condition for its approval of normalization in order to achieve balance with Iran. Such a move would transform Riyadh into a major power; making it at least as powerful as Israel, if not more so.

If Saudi Arabia were to possess nuclear power, there would be no need for Israel since Biden promotes the idea of Israel as the dominant power in the region, safeguarding American interests and subjugating everyone to these interests. Saudi Arabia could easily take on this role.

Should Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman head a nuclear power, what guarantees do Israel and the United States have that it will remain under control and not be used to gain control over the region, including Israel? And, what guarantees do they have that he – a key ally – will remain in power for the next 50 years?

Washington previously had a stronger ally than Saudi Arabia with a larger population and a stronger army in the Shah of Iran. His rule suddenly collapsed and was replaced overnight by an opposing regime seen as Israel’s archenemy.

Israel has always kept an eye on local nuclear powers, raising the issue of an armed Pakistan and warning that its arsenal may fall into the hands of forces which do not align with the US. This in spite of Pakistan being thousands of kilometres away, how does the prospect of an armed Saudi affect Tel Aviv?

President Biden’s statement regarding the possibility of allowing Saudi Arabia to possess nuclear weapons is for media consumption, or perhaps the American president is truly confused and does not know what he is doing, as his predecessor Donald Trump has said.

What is certain is that the Zionist train is destroying any possibility for justice for the Palestinian people and granting them a political entity, even if it is a weak one. The idea of granting rights to Palestinians in exchange for normalization is impossible.

Netanyahu has repeatedly declared that there cannot be a Palestinian state and that he believes it would become an Iranian proxy, terrorist state. He has repeatedly categorically denied the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state and always speaks about “peace” that does not include a Palestinian state.

Former US President Trump’s adviser, Jared Kushner, claimed Palestinians were not ready to manage their own affairs, so they should not be granted a state. This is the true American and Israeli perspective on the Palestinian people.

President Joe Biden’s policies aim to boost his popularity within the United States and solidify the position of the Democrats at a time when he is losing support and polls show Trump’s backing up ten points over Biden ahead of the 2024 elections.

Biden needs to accomplish normalization with Saudi Arabia at any cost and as soon as possible. Trump’s ability to win the next American presidential election is very high given his recent rise in popularity. How would the world look then?

Mohammad Makram Balawi is a Palestinian writer and academic based in Istanbul and President of the Asia-Middle East Forum