Speaking at the 78th UN General Assembly meeting in New York, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this Friday that Israel is “at the cusp” of a historic breakthrough leading to a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia.
This Friday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the 78th United Nations General Assembly annual meeting that Israel is closer than ever to finalizing a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia. “Israel is at the cusp of a historic agreement of normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia,” Netanyahu said this Friday morning at the United Nations without mentioning the exact timing of the agreement.
Speaking with a quite optimistic tone during his nearly 25-minute speech at the UNGA meeting, Netanyahu displayed contrasting maps showing Israel’s isolation at the time of its creation back in 1948 and also the six countries that have so far normalized relations with it, including Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and the UAE, four countries that did so in 2020 in the so-called Abraham Accords.
“There’s no question the Abraham Accords heralded the dawn of a new age of peace. But I believe that we are at the cusp of an even more dramatic breakthrough, a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” Netanyahu said, adding also that a peace agreement between Tel Aviv and Riyadh “will truly create a new Middle East.
The US also optimistic about the normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia
In addition to Netanyahu who expressed unprecedented optimism about concluding a normalization agreement with Riyadh, a new report from NBC News also suggests that the same optimism goes on in Washington. This Saturday, two unknown diplomats from the Biden administration told NBC News that the US is making progress toward a landmark agreement that would see Saudi Arabia normalize relations with Israel in exchange for a US defense pact and help develop its own civilian nuclear program.
“The complex talks are picking up steam and officials on all sides have voiced growing optimism in recent days that they could soon come together in a deal that would transform the political landscape of the Middle East and deliver a major foreign policy victory to President Joe Biden,” the report noted.
“If the deal were to come together, US officials believe it would be early next year, before the presidential election campaign makes it difficult to get 67 votes in the Senate, which has to ratify the defense treaty and would need to approve helping the Gulf kingdom’s de facto ruler, the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in his civilian nuclear ambitions,” the report also said.
Will Tel Aviv-Riyadh normalization be possible at all?
Despite the growing optimism that Netanyahu and the Biden administration expressed this week over the possibility of a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, there are significant obstacles facing such an accord that cannot be ignored.
These include the opposing voices from Republicans in the US Congress who have, many times, expressed their disagreement with the deal. According to them, such a deal would require the Biden administration to make huge concessions to Saudi Arabia which could not be in line with the US national interests and grand strategies in the Middle East.
In addition, Saudi Arabia is currently having quite good relations with Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, and normalization with Israel will surely impact the recently-restored relations between Tehran and Riyadh.
Last but not least, Israel has not yet agreed to one of the most pivotal conditions of Saudi Arabia for a normalization deal with Tel Aviv, which is recognizing the rights of Palestinians in their own homeland. Considering all these obstacles in the way of a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Netanyahu is better to think his words twice before celebrating something that has not happened yet.