Despite the profound differences between the American administration and the Israeli right-wing government, President Biden is exploring the option of a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, aiming to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan recently visited Saudi Arabia to discuss this matter with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
On July 28th, President Biden expressed that there might be progress on an agreement between the two countries.
The New York Times reported that he is considering promoting a mutual security agreement between the US and Saudi Arabia that would lead to the normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Earlier, President Biden told CNN that reaching a normalization agreement would involve a defense agreement and the US assisting Saudi Arabia with a civilian nuclear program.
Sources claim that President Biden is seeking achievements in the lead-up to the presidential elections, especially after facing criticism for the perceived failure of his Middle East policies following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Saudi-Iranian diplomatic ties facilitated by China.
Critics argue that the Biden administration’s policies in the Middle East have allowed China and Russia to gain influence in the region, prompting the administration to seek ways to restore the position of the United States.
Saudi Arabia has several demands from the US administration, including signing a joint defense agreement similar to NATO, obtaining facilities to enrich uranium for “peaceful needs,” purchasing advanced American weapons like the F-35 aircraft, and making real progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process towards an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.
However, achieving a normalization agreement involving Israel is not straightforward.
Some clauses of the deal require the approval of the American Senate, and this is likely to face strong opposition from both the Republican and Democratic Parties.
Critics argue that President Biden did not do enough to preserve the two-state option in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that normalization between Israel and Arab countries cannot advance without addressing the Palestinian issue.
According to the proposed deal, Israel would not be required to pay any price beyond making tangible progress in negotiations with the Palestinians and committing to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu strongly opposes the idea of a Palestinian state but is open to strengthening the Palestinian Authority.
He views achieving a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia as a primary objective of his current tenure.
The Palestinians claim that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas received a clear promise from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that Saudi Arabia would not sign any normalization agreement with Israel without an explicit Israeli commitment to establish an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Therefore, any news regarding this issue should be treated with caution.
Reaching an agreement appears challenging. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s acceptance of moving forward with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state through negotiations could threaten his government and coalition.
The PA faces economic difficulties and a weak position on the Palestinian street, with the Hamas movement gaining strength in the West Bank.
There is also an increasing succession battle at the top of the Fatah movement, and Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s advanced age and health condition raise concerns about the future of his leadership.
A majority of the Palestinian public, as indicated by polls, does not believe in the two-state solution and supports armed struggle against Israel.
Given the current circumstances, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s focus on maintaining his rule at any cost makes it doubtful whether a tripartite deal is achievable at this stage.