President Biden never misses an opportunity to remind everyone of his longtime support for Israel and in truth, before his Obama years, he was considered a reliable friend. But his obsessive insistence on an Israeli commitment to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict strongly suggests that, at all events, he is now in a far different place.

He has now set Israel’s recognition of a Palestinian state as a condition for US brokering of a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. This, despite definite indications that even the Saudis are not calling for recognition as a precondition but are willing to accept Israeli commitments to “ease” the lives of the Palestinians now and take up the statehood issue after normalization. And what’s more, there are reports that the Palestinians are grudgingly okay with this after having been told by the Saudis that they will not have a veto over any deal. Indeed, in exchange for accepting a normalization agreement in the short run, the Palestinians have reportedly pared down their immediate demands for control over certain areas of Judea and Samaria, the reopening of the US consulate in Jerusalem and the resumption of Saudi financial report.


Thus, in his address to the UN General Assembly this past Saturday the Saudi foreign minister said,

Security in the Middle East region requires the acceleration of… a just, comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue; the solution must be based on resolutions in the international arena and must bring about a peace that allows [the] Palestinian people to have an independent state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

But he did not mention Israel directly nor did he bring up the efforts toward a possible normalization deal. And the Times of Israel reports that the foreign minister’s remarks came in the midst “amid increased talk of a potential historic peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel, with Riyadh said to demand Israeli concessions to Palestinians that nevertheless fall short of giving them an independent state.”

Also, this week, CNN has reported that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said that a normalization pact with Israel would be “the biggest historical deal since the Cold War, and that he hopes such a deal “will reach a place that will ease the life of the Palestinians.” But he stopped short of calling for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

The Times of Israel also notes that looming large in all of this is the probably key point that Riyadh is also demanding US concessions such as a new defense pact, significant and cooperation on setting up a civilian nuclear program on Saudi soil. Arms deals, and cooperation on setting up a civilian nuclear program on Saudi soil.”

This hardly presents two-state solution as Saudi Arbia’s sine qua non for a deal with Israel. On the other hand, this is the statement US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made on the “Save the World” podcast last week as also reported by the Jewish News Service:

“Normalization… cannot be a substitute for Israel and the Palestinians resolving their differences and having a much better future for Palestinians. And in our judgment, of course, that must… needs to involve a two-state solution.”

So, while the Saudis and in some respects, the Palestinians, are willing to allow the normalization process to go forward and defer tackling the statehood issue, the Biden administration wants it resolved – and implemented now.

Yet we rather think that a self-professed friend of Israel should kick the statehood can down the road. It is certainly true that it is in Israel’s best interests to avoid the positioning of an incipient terror state next door. To be sure Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinians cohorts may have their druthers. But by any measure, Israel is among America’s best friends and key allies in the world. A true friend of Israel, like President Biden proclaims himself to be, should be willing to await some results of the normalization experiment, at least as much of the Arab world seems willing to do.

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