Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza
It is still possible for Saudi Arabia to establish relations with Israel, though the Israel-Gaza war means such a deal cannot be made in the current climate, said Dennis Ross, former US envoy to the Middle East.
“Obviously, nothing's going to happen right now,” Mr Ross told reporters during a Tuesday briefing, saying that Israel would be too occupied fighting the war to engage in talks.
“The atmosphere created by what's happening in Gaza obviously makes it difficult for the Saudis as well.”
President Joe Biden and his administration had previously suggested that it was making progress in brokering a deal in which Saudi Arabia would establish relations with Israel via an extension of the Abraham Accords.
It was hoped that the deal would help secure peace in the region, although negotiations were made without input from the Palestinians.
But the surprise Hamas assault on Israel – in which 1,400 people were killed and more than 100 civilians taken hostage – turned what would have been a significant foreign policy achievement for Mr Biden upside down. The US President and much of Washington have pledged full support of Israel's right to self-defence while also pressing for humanitarian assistance to Gaza.
And while Arab nations have roundly condemned Israel's bombardment of Gaza – which has resulted in more than 6,500 deaths – Mr Ross said they privately want Israel to “crush Hamas” because of the group's threat to the region.
“And there's a reason for it. If Hamas appears or emerges from this and looks like it was a winner, that means the ideology rejection was a winner. It means the Iranian axis is a winner,” he said.
Mr Ross, who played a key role in Middle East peace processes during the George H W Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, said the timing of Hamas's attack was not coincidental.
“When I was negotiating in the 1990s, every time we made progress, there would be a suicide bombing by Hamas. Their purpose was to prevent any possible plea of peace and coexistence,” he said.
“And the reason they the timing of this even though was obviously planned over a long period, the timing of this was there fear about the possibility of setting normalisation with Israel.”
His comments echoed that of Mr Biden, who said at a campaign event last week that Hamas attacked because “they knew I was about to sit down with the Saudis”.
In a moment of greater candour, the US President said Saudi Arabia wanted to recognise Israel and “they were about to recognise Israel”.
Any normalisation appears to be in the distant future for now.
Still, in a phone call on Tuesday, Mr Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman underscored building on previous negotiations to work towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the White House said in a readout.
For that to happen, Mr Ross suggested that Hamas must be defeated, its military infrastructure destroyed and leadership demolished. And while it cannot be totally eradicated, Mr Ross suggested that its operations can be constrained enough so that Gaza can be reconstructed without Hamas threatening to block those efforts.
“Then you're producing a political outcome that can create an atmosphere where I think the likelihood of the Saudis moving back into this potential deal with Israel becomes much more conceivable,” Mr Ross said.