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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

No Saudi defense pact without Israel deal – White House

West Jerusalem’s refusal to consider Palestinian statehood stands in the way of US plan for the Middle East

The US will not enter into a defense agreement with Saudi Arabia unless the kingdom recognizes the state of Israel, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has said. However, Riyadh has made any recognition deal contingent on the Israelis agreeing to work toward the formal establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Media reports last week suggested that Washington and Riyadh were drawing closer to signing a bilateral security pact, even as progress toward a Saudi-Israel normalization deal remained stalled. According to Reuters, the pact would see the US enter into a formal alliance with Saudi Arabia and help with its civilian nuclear program in exchange for Riyadh cutting some economic ties with China.

Read more: First group of pilgrims from Iran head to Saudi Arabia in nine years

Speaking at a Financial Times event in London on Saturday, Sullivan insisted that no deal will be possible without Saudi Arabia recognizing Israel.

“The integrated vision is a bilateral understanding between the US and Saudi Arabia combined with normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, combined with meaningful steps on behalf of the Palestinian people,” he told attendees. “All of that has to come together…you can’t disentangle one piece from the others.”

Brokering a Saudi-Israeli normalization deal was a key foreign policy goal of former US President Donald Trump, whose 2020 ‘Abraham Accords’ saw Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates open diplomatic and trade links with West Jerusalem. US President Joe Biden has continued to push for such a deal, but the war in Gaza has frozen negotiations since last October.

Read more: Shehbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz departs to Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Foreign Ministry stated in February that the kingdom would not establish formal relations with Israel “unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and that the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip stops and all Israeli occupation forces withdraw from the Gaza Strip.”

Riyadh’s conditions are non-starters in West Jerusalem, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue waging war in Gaza until Israel achieves “total victory” over Hamas. Netanyahu has also insisted on “full Israeli security control over the entire area west of the Jordan” when the conflict eventually ends, a description that includes the West Bank and Gaza.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said last week that Riyadh and Washington were indeed “very close” to a defense pact, but reiterated that there also “needs to be truly a pathway to a Palestinian state” that is “credible and irreversible.”