Regarding the potential normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Saudi royal family has taken a surprising step by appointing the first ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the PA, who will also serve as the consul general in East Jerusalem.
This ambassador, based in Jordan, will hold the status of a non-resident envoy to the PA.
The PA has expressed satisfaction with this Saudi move, asserting that Saudi Arabia is conveying a message to both Israel and the US that it will not compromise on Palestinian rights.
A senior PA official indicated that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has reassured PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that any agreement with Israel will require a resolution to the Palestinian issue.
Saudi Arabia views the 2002 Arab peace initiative, originally proposed by Saudi Arabia, as the key to addressing the Palestinian predicament.
Recent reports in The Wall Street Journal suggest the existence of an outline for a tripartite agreement involving the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.
Implementation is projected to take between 9 to 12 months.
However, the White House has denied these claims, with American officials asserting that the prospects of reaching an agreement with Saudi Arabia and Israel are currently limited.
Nevertheless, it appears that President Biden is aiming to expedite this tripartite deal prior to the upcoming presidential elections.
Presently, the US is framing the tripartite deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel as integral to its national security strategy.
Senior officials in Jerusalem assert that President Biden is determined to proceed with the deal, despite differences with Prime Minister Netanyahu, for two primary reasons.
- President Biden seeks to secure accomplishments in the Middle East before the US presidential elections, given the perceived shortcomings of American policy and China’s increasing influence in the region.
- With the escalating rivalry between the US and China, the Middle East has become another arena for their competition.
China’s successful mediation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, leading to a diplomatic agreement, underscores its growing diplomatic prowess.
This is particularly evident in China’s robust economic relations with Saudi Arabia, as it stands as Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner, annually receiving $50 million worth of oil and participating in significant development projects within the kingdom.
The Biden administration anticipates that Israel will utilize its influence in the US Senate to garner support from Republican senators for the tripartite deal with Saudi Arabia.
Approval for a defense alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia necessitates a two-thirds majority in the Senate, implying that President Biden requires the endorsement of around 17 to 20 Republican Senate members.
Such backing would be unattainable without Israel’s assistance.
President Biden’s motivation to enlist Israel’s aid stems from his objective to prevent Saudi Arabia from leaning towards China.
The Saudis’ perception that a defense agreement with the US would shield them from Iran is misguided.
The US is unlikely to engage in a military confrontation with Iran to safeguard Saudi Arabia, risking the lives of American troops stationed in Gulf military bases.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, possibly due to strained relations stemming from the Jamal Khashoggi incident, might be inclined to take his time.
He may prefer to await the election of the next American president, diversifying his country’s alliances beyond the US.
His outreach has extended to Qatar, Turkey, Russia, and China, reflecting his broader geopolitical ambitions.
As part of the tripartite deal, Saudi Arabia is pushing for the US to provide them with a nuclear reactor for “peaceful purposes.”
However, senior security officials in Israel staunchly oppose this arrangement, as it could potentially enable Saudi Arabia to develop nuclear weapons in the future.
This outcome would trigger a dangerous arms race across the Middle East, compelling other countries such as Egypt and Turkey to pursue nuclear capabilities.
It is widely anticipated that the US Senate will reject the sale of a nuclear reactor to Saudi Arabia.
Uncertainty also surrounds the Palestinian aspect of the deal.
Contrary to official statements from Jerusalem, the PA contends that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will demand a freeze on Israeli settlements and a commitment to establish an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, as prerequisites for normalization.
The Saudis are eager to witness concrete Israeli measures towards the Palestinians that substantiate the establishment of a Palestinian state.
However, the right-wing Israeli government is unlikely to accept such terms, and this condition could strain the coalition.
In recent interviews with foreign media outlets, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state within the context of an agreement with Saudi Arabia.
He expressed concerns that Iran might exploit such a state and emphasized the paramount importance of Israel’s security.
In sum, the proposed tripartite deal poses significant risks for Israel.
The Saudi demand for advanced weapons systems from the US adds another layer of complexity, potentially undermining Israel’s qualitative military edge.
President Biden’s push for achievements in the lead-up to the elections is evident in his pursuit of a prisoner exchange deal with Iran, potentially linked to a broader nuclear accord.
Israel must prioritize its national security and avoid compromising its interests solely for the sake of a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia.
Postponing negotiations until after the US presidential elections could yield more favorable terms and safeguard Israel’s strategic concerns.