In a recent Reuters report, it has been revealed that Saudi Arabia’s paramount objective in its peace negotiations with Israel and talks with the US is to establish a military defense pact with the United States. According to sources closely involved in the discussions, the Saudis are resolute in their decision to make peace with Israel, even in the absence of any substantial concessions from the Israeli side to the Palestinian Authority.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MbS) core and non-negotiable demand is a binding assurance of US protection, particularly in light of past attacks suspected to have been undertaken by Iran, such as the ones directed at their vital oil fields in 2019. This demand underscores the Saudi leadership’s focus on their own national security.
It is noteworthy that Saudi Arabia’s focus lies primarily in solidifying its security alliance with the United States rather than the establishment of a “Palestinian state” or even major concessions for the PA. It appears that MbS just needs some concession to the PA in order to save face.
In the event of opposition from the Palestinian Authority regarding the peace agreement with Israel, the Saudis remain undeterred, expressing their intent to move forward with the normalization process with Israel. That decision is also in line with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent statement at the United Nations, that the PA should not have a veto power over Saudi-Israel peace.
Netanyahu has long been an advocate of “peace for peace” in the Middle East, and not the failed paradigm of “land for peace.” As the Abraham Accords have shown, Netanyahu’s paradigm works.
This report contradicts previous statements coming from the Biden administration that have repeatedly claimed that the two-state solution and major concessions to the PA are core demands of the Saudis. This report pulls the rug out from under those US claims.
The primary driver behind Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of such an alliance is its concerns about Iran. While a full-fledged NATO-style treaty might not be on the table, the United States is actively working to devise a formula that aligns with Saudi Arabia’s security requirements. This signifies a strategic move to counter potential threats in the region, as well as keeping the Saudis out of Chinese hands, who have been actively courting the Saudis and making serious inroads into the Middle East.
Additionally, the report indicates that the Saudis have shown a willingness to compromise on some of their civilian nuclear technology demands. This includes their preparedness to sign Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, indicating a significant shift in their stance and a willingness to cooperate on peaceful nuclear initiatives.
In recent weeks, there have been observable initial steps towards normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, including recent, open visits to Saudi Arabia by Israeli civilians and even an Israeli government minister, as well as Saudi concern for Israeli sensitivities.
Saudi Arabia’s emphasis on a robust defense pact with the United States underscores the kingdom’s fear of Iran and acknowledgement of the benefits of peace with Israel. As the negotiations progress, the evolving dynamics in the Middle East are poised to reshape the geopolitical landscape, with implications far beyond the immediate parties involved.