A top official from the Israeli government said this Monday that normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia is not an easy task and the road to this aim is still too long.
As the United States is restlessly trying these days to boost the process of normalizing ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser clearly asserted this Monday that the road to normalization with the Kingdom is “still long”, adding also that members of his far-right government have rule out any concessions to Palestinians as part of any deal with Riyadh.
“I can identify with what the United States president said in an interview a few days ago, where he said that the road is still long but that he thinks there will be a possibility of progress,” Israel’s national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said to Israeli media on Monday, adding that Israel is not involved in the US-Saudi discussions. “I can say that Israel will not give in to anything that will erode its security,” Hanegbi said.
Hanegbi’s Monday comments, a big spoiler of US efforts
For months, the United States officials have been ceaselessly trying their best to help Israel reach a deal of normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia, similar to the one with Bahrain and the UAE that were inked during the Trump administration.
To this aim, the US Secretary of States Antony Blinken visited Saudi Arabia in June, declaring that a deal between Tel Aviv and Riyadh would be in line with the “national security interest” of the United States. US President Joe Biden last week dispatched his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to Riyadh to discuss a possible deal and on Friday said a rapprochement was “maybe under way”.
Also last week, the New York Times reported that during a previous visit by Sullivan in May, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed an increased willingness to reach a deal on normalization with Israel, prompting Biden to launch a “full-bore effort.”
Unofficial reports indicate that Saudi Arabia has set a series of conditions for there US on exchange for agreement to normalize ties with Israel. They include security guarantees from the US, and Washington’s help with the Kingdom’s civilian nuclear program, as well as stopping Israel from expanding illegal settlements in Palestinian territories.
Deflecting to answer a question about the security implications of Riyadh establishing a civilian nuclear program For Israel, Hanegbi said to the Israeli media that Israel’s consent is not needed for Saudi Arabia to have a peaceful nuclear program. “Dozens of countries operate projects with civilian nuclear cores, and with nuclear endeavors for energy, this is not something that endangers them nor their neighbors,” he said.
No consensus inside US over an Israel-Saudi Arabia deal
There are also conflicting ideas inside the US about whether it should make such a concession to give Saudi Arabia security guarantee in case of rising a threat to the Kingdom in exchange for a deal of normalization with Israe.
National Interest addressed this issue last week and wrote in an article that “offering security guarantees (even if less than a treaty) is a major concession that could tie our hands in a future crisis, and there are many reasons to doubt that it offers much incremental benefit to the United States”.
To make matters even worse for the possibility of a deal between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, it is worth mentioning that US-Israeli ties have been strained in recent months by the Israeli government’s expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and highly contested judicial changes pursued by Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition, both of which have created an environment of mistrust and resentment between the two allies.