Saudi Arabia: Biden aides visit to discuss normalization with Israel

Middle East Monitor  /  October 5, 2023

Senior aides of US President Joe Biden visited Riyadh secretly last week as part of Washington’s efforts to agree a deal that may include normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, Walla has revealed. The Biden administration is keen to have a deal agreed before embarking on the 2024 election campaign at the beginning of next year.

Local sources said that National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk, and Special Presidential Coordinator for Global Infrastructure and Energy Security Amos Hochstein made the discreet visit to Saudi Arabia last Thursday. According to news website Axios, the White House did not disclose the visit.

McGurk and Hochstein apparently met Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials to discuss the different elements of the normalization deal. The White House National Security Council spokesperson, however, denied reports about the trip, pointing out that senior officials always travel to the region as a normal part of their roles. 

Axios claimed that the White House is negotiating a possible security agreement between the US and Saudi Arabia; support for a Saudi civilian nuclear program; and US approval for sophisticated weapons sales to the kingdom.

Although it has been mooted that there will be Israeli concessions to the Palestinians in the deal, officials in Israel have tried to play down how much Saudi Arabia is actually pushing for this. They have pointed to Bin Salman’s interview on Fox News last month in which he did not mention a Palestinian state, but only said that he wants to improve the lives of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a briefing with reporters on Tuesday that the US has not reached a formal framework for the mega-deal with Saudi Arabia and does not have the terms ready to be signed.