Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) have expressed confidence that a Washington-brokered normalization agreement between Tel Aviv and Riyadh is becoming more likely as negotiations continue apace. This comes as Netanyahu’s apartheid army is murdering scores of Palestinians in the occupied territories and the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu met with President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, this was the first meeting the two heads of state have held since the former returned to power last December. The White House is striving to forge the deal between the two regional powers, it is the top priority when it comes to Middle East policy. Supporters of this deal say it will be a major diplomatic win heading into the election season, Riyadh is perceived as the gateway to Israel’s acceptance in the broader Muslim world, and the administration believes this deal can be exploited to also curtail China’s influence.
“I think that under your leadership, Mr. President, we can forge a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” Netanyahu told Biden prior to their discussions. The prime minister continued, “I think such a peace would go a long way first to advance the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, achieve reconciliation between the Islamic world and the Jewish state, and advance a genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is something within our reach.”
This meeting came less than 24 hours after Israeli forces killed six Palestinians, mostly in the West Bank, including four during another raid in the Jenin refugee camp. In July, with the support of the Joe Biden administration, Israeli forces invaded and bombed the Jenin refugee camp where a dozen people were killed including five children. Israeli bulldozers tore up the camp’s roads, water, and electricity networks. 1,000 troops participated in the raid, along with Apache helicopters, drones, and 150 armored vehicles.
Israeli massacres and war crimes such as the July raid on Jenin have made normalization with Tel Aviv increasingly unpopular in the region, including among the citizenry in Arab states which are signatories to the Abraham Accords such as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
“You’ve heard me say many times: Were there no Israel, we’d have to invent one, and I mean it,” Biden said after calling Netanyahu a “friend.”
This year, Israel has been constantly destabilizing the region including by doubling its nearly weekly airstrikes in Syria, carrying out drone strikes in Iran, and launching a brutal bombing campaign against Gaza – an open air prison – which killed at least 33 people.
According to Middle East Eye, “This year is shaping up to be one of the bloodiest in the occupied West Bank… at least 222 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces this year, including 38 children. A total of 185 people have died in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Another 37 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip.”
Some Saudi officials say Riyadh is holding out for a two-state solution in Palestine à la the Arab Peace Plan, which calls for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. Though there was a report in Arabic media over the weekend suggesting Riyadh had pulled out of the normalization talks over concerns regarding Netanyahu’s far-right ruling coalition, which is bent on annexing the entire West Bank. The report was personally refuted by MbS during an interview with Fox News on Wednesday.
In the same interview, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia was asked if Tel Aviv and Riyadh are close to a deal, MbS responded by saying “every day we get closer.”
Per the New York Times, Washington is currently discussing a mutual security treaty with Saudi Arabia akin to the pacts with Seoul and Tokyo. The Gulf kingdom is also seeking further access to advanced American weapons systems as well as assistance building its nuclear energy program.
Although, the Palestinian Authority is attempting to secure certain concessions related to Area C of the West Bank, there is no discussion of establishing an independent Palestinian state.