Normalisation deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia high on Biden's agenda

US President says 'rapprochement maybe under way' following National Security Adviser's recent meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan travelled this week to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. AFP
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US President Joe Biden on Friday confirmed that there were ongoing American efforts to co-ordinate a normalisation deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel after his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made a visit to the kingdom this week.

“There’s a rapprochement maybe under way,” Mr Biden said at a campaign event in Maine.

The President did not share any further details about his administration's efforts to bring about such deal.

While in Saudi Arabia, Mr Sullivan met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, with the White House saying talks were focused on “bilateral and regional matters” that included “initiatives to advance a common vision” for the Middle East.

“We continue our support for normalisation with Israel, including with Saudi Arabia, and obviously continue to talk to our regional partners about how more progress can be made,” a State Department representative told The National.

“It’s one effort we are pursuing toward advancing US foreign policy goals for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous and stable Middle East region.”

If the Biden administration were able to help normalise relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, it would be a signature foreign policy achievement.

Mr Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, brokered the normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, and later Morocco and Sudan, through the Abraham Accords. The Biden administration has been attempting to expand them since.

But Saudi Arabia has long maintained that it will not pursue normalisation with Israel until progress towards peace with the Palestinians is achieved.

Ongoing violence between the two sides could put that out of reach, as could recent actions by members of Israel's far-right government.

The government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has taken an antagonistic bent towards relations with the Palestinians, with several high-profile ministers publicly advocating the annexation of the West Bank.

On Thursday, Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the compound where Al Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, is located. It was his third such trip to the area – also a holy site in Judaism – since becoming a minister, with each trip viewed by Palestinians as well as many in the Muslim world as a provocation.

Updated: July 28, 2023, 10:25 PM