Reaching a deal to normalize ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia will be “a long and cautious process”, but Israel believes it can happen, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Monday.
Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, but in 2020 Gulf allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates normalised ties with the Jewish state.
The normalisation deals under the US-brokered Abraham Accords angered the Palestinians, who condemned them as a “stab in the back”.
Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest two sites, has conditioned any eventual normalization with Israel on the addressing of the Palestinians’ quest for statehood on territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
Lapid, speaking on Israel’s Army Radio, said that should an agreement emerge, it would not come in a surprise announcement like it did with previous deals, which include agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“We will not wake up one morning to a surprise, rather it will be a long and cautious process on both sides. There are security interests for both countries,” Lapid said.
He added it would be a “slow process of small details” but that he believed a deal could be reached.
Israel's top diplomat sees no quick breakthrough with Saudi Arabia but “a long and cautious process", of normalization that Israel believes can happen.
— Mark Dubowitz (@mdubowitz) May 31, 2022
“We are working on this with the Americans, with some of our friends in the Gulf countries, in many different echelons. Egypt is of course a significant player,” Lapid said.
Saudi relations with Israel’s arch-foe Iran, blamed by Gulf states for creating chaos in the region, have at the same time showed signs of improvement with several rounds of talks hosted by Iraq.
“They are neighbours. Neighbours forever. We cannot get rid of them, and they can’t get rid of us,” the prince said of Iran.
“So it’s better for both of us to work it out and to look for ways in which we can coexist,” the transcript said he told the US monthly publication.
“Hopefully, we can reach a position that’s good for both countries and is going to create a brighter future for this country and Iran,” he added.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said it would stick to the decades-old Arab League position of not establishing official ties with Israel until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.
Reuters with additional input by GVS News Desk