US Scraps Planned Visit to Mid East to Normalize Saudi-Israeli Ties

by | Apr 3, 2024

US Scraps Planned Visit to Mid East to Normalize Saudi-Israeli Ties

by | Apr 3, 2024

brett mcgurk msc 2017

Brett McGurk

The White House indefinitely suspended a trip by a high-level delegation to the Middle East that hoped to see Saudi Arabia agree to normalize relations with Israel. While there is little chance Riyadh will strengthen ties with Tel Aviv amid the onslaught in Gaza, the White House remains committed to the policy. 

Akbar Shahid Ahmed, senior reporter for the HuffPost, posted on X, “A planned trip by Jake Sullivan, Brett McGurk, and Amos Hochstein to Saudi Arabia has been postponed indefinitely, per a US official.” 

The White House has pushed to incentivize Saudi Arabia to normalize its ties with Israel throughout the Joe Biden presidency. The deal would mark an expansion of the Donald Trump-era Abraham Accords, which saw four Muslim countries develop official relations with Tel Aviv despite its continued occupation of Palestine. In exchange for abandoning demands for improved treatment of Palestinians, Washington offered the signers weapons and other favors. 

While presented as a path to a more peaceful Middle East, the deals have heightened tensions with Iran and created an arms race between two of the Abraham Accords signatories: Israel and the UAE. 

After Israel responded to the October 7 Hamas attack with a brutal and indiscriminate bombing campaign in Gaza, the prospects of achieving an Israel-Saudi deal are now almost zero. “The Biden aides wanted to push forward a US-Saudi-Israel deal… The Saudi desire for a deal has undeniably tempered since 10/7, while the US remains fixated on it,” Ahmed explained. 

The HuffPost reporter said that McGurk, who heads Middle East policy at the State Department, remains fixated on the unworkable project. “At the State Department, it is widely understood that the Saudis won’t engage on this for some time,” Ahmed posted, adding, “Very much a White House (McGurk-led) fixation on ‘normalization.’”

Many experts on Middle East policy recognized that Arab states will be unwilling to improve ties as Israel continues to slaughter thousands of innocent Palestinians every month. However, the White House has viewed the bombing in Gaza as an opportunity to expand the deal, frequently proposing a role for Arab states in rebuilding Gaza after Israel destroys it and allows the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian rump state. 

It appears Israel and its Arab neighbors in the Middle East have no interest in this proposal despite nearly all of the countries receiving billions of dollars in aid and weapons from the US. The White House has claimed the trip to the region was only canceled because Sullivan sustained a broken rib

About Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of Antiwar.com and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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