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13 June, 2024
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Saudi-US deal in limbo over Israel relations

Landmark bilateral agreement faces hurdles as normalization with Israel remains uncertain


Saudi Arabia and the United States are finalizing a landmark deal to bolster bilateral trade and defense, contingent upon establishing diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, according to US officials and as reported by CNN.  The deal aims to solidify the seven-decade security alliance between the two countries amid challenges from Iran, Russia, and China in the Middle East.

The agreement comprises three components: agreements between the US and Saudi Arabia, normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, and a pathway to a Palestinian state. However, normalization hinges on calm in Gaza and a credible pathway to a Palestinian state.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the deal, which experts describe as a comprehensive set of understandings covering security, economic, and technological aspects, including support for Saudi Arabia's civilian nuclear program.

The normalization deal is expected to resemble the Abraham Accords, with MBS considering it a historic deal. The Biden administration views Israel-Saudi normalization as central to its Middle East policy.

While discussions on the pact occurred in 2023, recent events like the Israeli assault on Gaza have altered the deal's parameters, with Israel's acceptance of a pathway to a Palestinian state being crucial. However, Netanyahu rejects an independent Palestinian state. Saudi Arabia might pursue the bilateral deal without the normalization component, facing hurdles in Congress.

The Biden administration could bypass Congress using a model similar to the agreement with Bahrain, but no indication suggests this approach. A bilateral agreement with the US would mark a victory for Saudi Arabia, advancing its defense and economic goals, including its civilian nuclear program. However, US opposition to Saudi enrichment of uranium remains a sticking point.

Democratic Senator Edward J. Markey urged the Biden administration to ensure Saudi Arabia forgoes enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear material. The Saudi-US pact would enhance mutual defense but falls short of a treaty alliance, leaving room for a multilateral security agreement involving Israel when political circumstances allow.

[Information sourced from CNN]

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