According to Barak Ravid’s report in Walla on Wednesday (ממשל ביידן דן עם סעודיה באפשרות לנורמליזציה עם ישראל והצטרפות להסכמי אברהם), the Biden administration is discussing with Saudi Arabia the possibility of normalization with Israel and joining the Abraham Accords. Ravid cites three American and Arab sources involved in the matter who claim that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan raised the issue in a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on September 27 during his visit to the kingdom.
Ravid cited some senior Trump administration officials who said in closed-door talks that had Trump won a second term, they would have succeeded in getting Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel in 6-12 months. According to Ravid, former Trump adviser Jared Kushner even met with Sullivan in January, a few days before Biden’s inauguration, and encouraged him to push Saudi Arabia to join the Abraham Accords.
Ravid’s sources said that in his conversation with Sullivan, Ben Salman did not reject outright the possibility of promoting normalization with Israel. The Saudis, however, stressed that such a move would take time and gave Sullivan a list of steps that would need to be taken ahead of such a move. Some of these steps relate to improving relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Since his inauguration, President Joe Biden has been cool towards the Saudis, especially in the wake of the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents and the state of human rights in the kingdom.
The White House declined to comment on the above, but a spokesman for the White House National Security Council said in response to the idea of expanding the number of states that join the accords: “I would like to refer you to the remarks made by Secretary of state Antony Blinken who said at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Abrahamic Accords that the Biden government will encourage more countries to follow in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco,” and added: “We wanted to expand the circle of peace through diplomacy.”
The issue of normalization with additional Arab countries came up in meetings that were held recently between Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and both Blinken and Sullivan. However, when Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan met with Blinken last Thursday in Washington, neither side mentioned normalization with Israel – at least not in their official announcements.
In 2017, the Trump administration made great efforts to persuade Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel. Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman showed openness to the idea but his father King Salman insisted on maintaining the traditional Saudi policy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and not exceeding the conditions for recognition of Israel set in the Arab Peace Initiative.
The Arab Peace Initiative stipulated that all Arab and Muslim states would normalize their relations with Israel only after the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.
Saudi Arabia did support the UAE’s decision to sign a peace agreement with Israel, and also gave Bahrain its approval to join the Abrahamic Agreements. The Saudis also complied with the Trump administration’s request to allow flights from Israel to the UAE and Bahrain and back to pass through their airspace.