The Saudi Arabia-United States Relationship, or more to the point, Bin Salman-Biden ties has gone through a sinus cycle since 2020. With Biden taking the office at the White House and his obsessive insistence on following the Khashoggi case, the two sides led a straining of ties for which Biden could find no resolution even after a visit to Riyadh. The Saudi side meant to give Washington a lesson and it did with its conduct on oil supply, totally running on the opposite side of the road.
With Saudi Arabia leaning to the right bloc of the world, expanding financial and business cooperation with China and political and security bonds with Russia, the lights of a potential rejuvenation of ties were getting even dimmer. Weird enough, Israel turned into a common ground with both sides revitalizing the efforts for normalization of ties between Riyadh and Tel Aviv. The talks proceeded smoothly and remarks of the three sides signaled an imminent agreement that could transform the regional politics towards Israel and Palestine.
On the Israeli side, the agreement would be a drastic achievement, as normalization with Saudi Arabia, the traditional and religious father of the Arab world, means the de-escalation of long decades of hostilities with the Arab communities. Israel also counted on expanding business and economic ties with Riyadh, as an emerging regional and trans-regional giant. On Saudi side, whose utmost priority is the implementation of ambitious business and development projects, the de-escalation with Israel means more regional security and improvement of collaborations with western powers as vocal Israeli supporters. Riyadh seeks the establishment of nuclear program, more weapons sales, and a mutual defense pact with the United States.
In Washington, the Saudi-Israeli agreement is an Israel-centered project in which the main regional ally tightens grip on regional power and dominance while diminishing any potential threat by foes like Iran. For Biden administration in specific, the agreement in 2023 could mean an improvement of the already strained ties with Saudi Arabia and containing the severity and velocity of the East Bloc expansion. October 7 was a mortal blow to the process with no clear restoration apparatus in horizon.
Hamas attack against Israeli targets, as a fresh scar, flamed up a fire whose flares extended to Saudi Arabia-US relationship where the two sides were trying to heal the wounds of former disputes. The popular uproar across the region and beyond that has shifted the local policies of the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, and the possibility of a ground invasion with the aim of ethnic cleansing deteriorated the frictions on two fronts: First, between the leaders of regional administrations and the infuriated people and second, between the Arab world and western counties. An Ironic shift of policies in Saudi Arabia and the United States Clarifies the fresh spirit of the region post-10/7 developments.
- Few weeks before the October 7 conflicts, Mohammad bin Salman signaled his willingness to finalize the agreement with Israel in any condition. In his talk with Fox News, the Saudi Crown prince connotated the possibility of laying away “Palestinian statehood” as the precondition of an agreement. The fresh hostilities in the occupied lands restored the original expectations as Riyadh insisted on the “two-state solution” in an initial reaction to the escalations. “If we are not willing to overcome all of the difficulties, all of the challenges, all of the history that is involved in this issue, then we will never have a real peace and security in the region,” the Saudi foreign minister asserted later.
- In an essay published in Foreign Affairs few weeks after 10/7 conflicts started, the U.S. national security adviser underscored the “two-State solution” as the only way out of the predicament in the occupied lands to which Washington is still committed. Looking more into the essay, it is found that the essay in an edited version of the one published in the printed version of the journal few days before the 10/7 conflicts. In the original essay, Jake Sullivan fell short of referring to the “two-state solution” while boasting the administration’s success in securing peace and stability in Gaza Strip.
The stark fluctuation of policies towards the Palestine issue and the Palestinian statehood in Saudi Arabia and the United States is the result of a widespread war that both sides are concerned about its expansion to the rest of the region. While the fresh policies overlap on surface, a deeper look at the remarks and approaches suggests that the common ground has been lost at least for now.
Riyadh has recently issued a strong-tone warning to Washington regarding the repercussion of an imminent ground invasion of Israel into Gaza. The Crown Prince called for a “measured response” to Hamas attacks while he believes a ground cleansing of the population in Northern Gaza might lead to an extended catastrophe in the region. Saudi Arabia wants the war ended while the leaders’ sole agenda is to proceed with their financial plans with the peace and stability as the main prerequisite. Saudi leaders also have an eye on their people and a potential fury that may implode in case they side with their American partners in Washington.
The United States has reiterated its “ironclad commitment” to Israel and its security with President Biden stressing on the fact that “the United States has Israel’s back.” About a year before the election in the United States, everything has an electoral aspect, let alone a deadly war that raged the most sensitive and disputed region across the world. Israel’s iron fist response to Hamas attacks has instigated more extremism on both ends in American society with polls showing more people sympathizing with Hamas fighters on one side and hardliners advocating an intense response to Hamas attacks on the other side. The fresh sentiments in American society may estrange a younger group of the people on whose votes Democrats count much in election, from Joe Biden and his policies. Besides, as hardliners gain more attention on both parties, they may gain momentum in the primaries and transform the electoral atmosphere of the country. Extremism, in a political contest, could only be countered by more extremism, meaning Biden should be more clear-cut and serious in providing supports for Israel.
Policy-making processes in both the United States and Saudi Arabia, hence, are structured by the civil society engagements inside the countries. The divergences of popular approaches result in the governing societies of the nations having to go through a division in theoretical and practical measures. Unlike former experiences, the final scene of the fresh conflict in Gaza may be written by the people, not the rulers.
|The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Al-Sarira.