As the Joe Biden administration continues its hurried push to foster an unlikely normalization deal between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, the White House is suggesting Israel make some concessions to the Saudis in the hopes of achieving an agreement, Times of Israel reported on Tuesday.
It remains unclear if the Israelis will be willing to take the recommended steps, particularly with respect to the security situation in Palestine. Likewise, it is unlikely Saudi Arabia is interested in joining the Abraham Accords which is a thinly veiled, American-led coalition against Iran. Riyadh recently restored full diplomatic relations with Tehran in an unprecedented, diplomatic feat brokered by Beijing.
According to an unsourced Channel 12 news report, cited by Times of Israel, the Biden administration and the Saudis want Tel Aviv to hold talks with the Palestinians. Washington is also said to be urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to shelve his controversial judicial overhaul, which has caused political chaos and a social uproar in Israel.
The report claims a recent Israeli request for a meeting between Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was rejected by the Saudi side, during a secret phone conversation between the two leaders. A foreign diplomatic source cited in the report claimed Netanyahu and MBS have spoken twice in calls made possible by Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani. These calls, reportedly focused on the possible rapprochement, ostensibly took place before and after last week’s Arab League summit in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.
Many of the demands the Saudis supposedly enumerated for Netanyahu’s coalition, which includes extremist settlers, are sure to be non-starters. For instance, the channel’s report claims MBS is pressuring Israel to hand over security powers to the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, enhancing Palestinian security systems at the expense of Israel’s apartheid army. Additionally, MBS seeks Palestinian security control over the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in occupied Jerusalem’s Old City.
This comes amid a significant uptick in vicious violence in occupied Palestine unleashed by Israeli security forces as well as the virulent Jewish settler population against Muslims and Christians, along with repeated attacks on their respective holy sites. Indeed, some of these acts of savagery are actively sponsored by members of Netanyahu’s Likud party and his ministers.
Since Netanyahu took power, Israel has been murdering Palestinians at a rapid rate. According to Middle East Eye, at least “117 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank so far this year, with another 34 killed in Gaza,” mostly during Israel’s most recent bombing campaign against the blockaded, open air prison. The Israeli regime has also announced a doubling of its bombings of Syria, another long-time adversary with whom Riyadh has recently normalized relations. Highlighting the profound sidelining of the US and Israel, this regional breakthrough was facilitated by Moscow.
On Friday, MBS told the Arab League, “the Palestinian issue was and remains the central issue for Arab countries, and it is at the top of the kingdom’s priorities.” In any case, the deal may simply be out of reach because the Kingdom has refused to normalize with the Israelis unless there is a two-state solution in Palestine.
Therefore, the Saudis may be trying to squeeze some concessions out of the White House, regardless of whether there is a deal with Israel or not. Riyadh demanded the administration unfreeze some Trump-era weapons deals which were halted when Biden took power, the Saudis are also requesting Washington provide NATO-style security guarantees and assistance building its own civilian nuclear program.
The report also claims a Saudi-Israeli normalization deal would offer Tel Aviv full support from Washington regarding any actions it takes against Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program. However, there is little reason to believe Israel does not already have such backing, explicit assurances to this effect have repeatedly been pledged by US officials. Last week, Axios reported that the Pentagon is proposing joint-planning with the Israelis on potential attacks against Iran.
If Israel was truly concerned about Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons, they would support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which mandates the most comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections regime ever implemented. As Antiwar.com columnist Ted Snider has noted, “prior to the US illegally pulling out of the JCPOA, Iran was in full compliance with its JCPOA commitments. Eleven consecutive [IAEA] reports verified that Iran was completely and consistently in compliance with their commitments under the agreement.”
At any rate, Iran has been a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since 1970. Israel has never signed the NPT due to its open-secret nuclear arsenal thought to contain hundreds of weapons – technically making decades of American aid to Tel Aviv illegal under US foreign assistance laws.