Before presidential election, Saudi Arabia seeks U.S. defense deal.

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With contributions from Samia Nakhoul, Dan Williams, and Matt Spetalnick According to Reuters, DUBAI According to three sources, Saudi Arabia would be willing to accept a political pledge from Israel to create a Palestinian state rather than anything more enforceable in order to get a defense pact with Washington authorized before the presidential election in the United States.

This would be done in an effort to get the agreement approved before the election. In October, Riyadh put an end to months of diplomatic efforts spearheaded by the United States to convince Saudi Arabia to normalize its relations with Israel and recognize the country for the first time. This decision was made in response to the growing outrage among Arab nations regarding the conflict in Gaza.

Before presidential election, Saudi Arabia seeks U.S. defense deal.
Before presidential election, Saudi Arabia seeks U.S. defense deal.

According to two sources in the region, Saudi Arabia is becoming increasingly eager to strengthen its security and protect itself from threats posed by Iran, which is a rival nation. This is done in order for the kingdom to move forward with its ambitious plan to restructure its economy and attract enormous amounts of foreign investment.

To create some wiggle room in talks about recognising Israel and to get the United States pact back on track, Saudi officials have told their counterparts in the United States that Riyadh would not insist that Israel take concrete steps to create a Palestinian state. Instead, Riyadh would accept a political commitment to a two-state solution, according to two senior regional sources who spoke to Reuters.

A major regional agreement of this magnitude, which was widely seen as a long shot even before the battle between Israel and Hamas, would still be confronted with a multitude of political and diplomatic impediments, the most significant of which is the uncertainty regarding the course of the Gaza fight.

Before presidential election, Saudi Arabia seeks U.S. defense deal.

By combining two long-time adversaries and binding Riyadh to Washington at a time when China is making advances in the region, a treaty that would give the United States military security to the world’s largest oil exporter in exchange for normalization with Israel would transform the Middle East.

A normalization deal would also strengthen Israel’s defenses against Iran, which is Israel’s archrival, and it would provide Vice President Joe Biden of the United States with a diplomatic triumph to brag about before the presidential election on November 5.

Riyadh would then normalize relations and assist pay Gaza’s reconstruction, according to one of the regional sources. Saudi officials have privately encouraged Washington to press Israel to stop the Gaza war and agree to a “political horizon” for a Palestinian state. They have also stated that Riyadh would thereafter help fund Gaza’s restoration.

Before presidential election, Saudi Arabia seeks U.S. defense deal.

“Stop the war first, allow humanitarian aid, and commit to a just and lasting solution to give the Palestinians a state,” said Abdelaziz al-Sagher, chairman of the Gulf Research Center think-tank in Jeddah, who is acquainted with the ongoing conversations. “This is the message that the kingdom has been sending to the United States,” he added. “Without it, Saudi Arabia can’t do anything.”

The issue, however, is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has spent a significant portion of his political career fighting the establishment of a Palestinian state, has categorically rejected any expectations that the United States and Arab nations may have for a Palestinian state once the Gaza conflict is over.

“Normalization does require really – if not legally, at least politically – a commitment from the Israelis that they are open to a two-state solution,” said one of the senior regional officials who is aware with Saudi views. “If not legally, at least politically,”

“If Israel stopped its military offensive on Gaza – or at least declared a ceasefire – it would make it easier for Saudi Arabia to go ahead with the deal,” according to the individual.Despite repeated demands for comment, the communication office of the Saudi government did not provide a response.

THROUGH THE WAY TO STATEHOOD

The diplomatic push by Riyadh is motivated by a desire to reach a deal while the Democrats in the United States are still in control of the Senate and the White House. Additionally, there is a growing concern about the military reach of Iran, which has proxies in Saudi Arabia’s neighboring countries of Iraq and Yemen, in addition to Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza.

Throughout the years, a significant number of Democratic politicians have been vocal in their opposition to such pacts and have condemned Saudi Arabia for its military intervention in Yemen, its role in maintaining oil prices, and its involvement in the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Before presidential election, Saudi Arabia seeks U.S. defense deal.

Before presidential election, Saudi Arabia seeks U.S. defense deal.

But given that Vice President Biden is eager to reach a compromise, the current moment may be the best opportunity to push an agreement through Congress, according to people who are knowledgeable with Saudi thinking.

The Saudi authorities have not provided a detailed explanation of what constitutes an acceptable “pathway” to a Palestinian state. This has provided them with the flexibility to negotiate an agreement with Israel that does not entail any actions that are legally enforceable, according to the sources from the region.

In addition, there has been no attempt made to resurrect the strategy that Saudi Arabia has actively supported for a long time. This policy offered Israel normal relations with the entire Arab world in exchange for its withdrawal from lands that were occupied during the 1967 conflict.

However, according to Sagher of the Gulf Research Center, Riyadh and other Arab diplomats have conveyed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken of the United States of America and other visiting officials from the United States that the establishment of a Palestinian statehood would not occur in the absence of concrete and strong pressure from the United States on Israel.

Before presidential election, Saudi Arabia seeks U.S. defense deal.

Washington was continuing talks with Riyadh on the U.S.-Saudi elements of the normalization deal, including nuclear cooperation and security guarantees, according to a senior official from the State Department. However, the official stated that everything depended on Israel coming into line on a pathway to Palestinian statehood and ending the war in Gaza.

When a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council was asked about the current state of normalization, they responded by saying, “The United States is currently concentrating its diplomatic efforts on the immediate crisis.”

“But we remain committed to the long-term goal of a more stable, prosperous, and integrated Middle East region, including through normalisation and advancement of a two-state solution.”

Within the next few days, Blinken is anticipated to make his way back to the area.

An official from the Israeli government who spoke to Reuters under the condition of anonymity stated that there was “zero chance” that Netanyahu would discuss the establishment of a Palestinian state. Nevertheless, the person stated that this does not imply that the Saudis or anyone else are unable to discuss the matter.

“As Israel has made clear, the Palestinians will not have sovereignty in terms of being able to have an army or to enter treaties with Iran or to threaten Israel in any way.”

On the previous month, Netanyahu issued a statement in which he stated that Israel must have security control over all of the region that is located west of the Jordan River regardless of any arrangement that may be made in the near future.

The official stated that Netanyahu and his top confident, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, were the only ones handling the normalization discussions. This might be interpreted as a possible indication of the sensitivity of the topic of statehood within the Israeli administration.

According to a source in the United States, Washington believed that Riyadh’s strong desire to acquire defensive guarantees from the United States meant that the kingdom would be willing to demonstrate some degree of flexibility over what would constitute an Israeli commitment to a pathway to Palestinian statehood.

According to the source, one step that could be taken in this manner is for Netanyahu to abandon his opposition to the Palestinian Authority playing a prominent role in Gaza after the conflict.

Netanyahu’s most significant diplomatic achievement would be to establish relations with the Sunni Muslim heavyweight of the Arab world. On the other hand, normalization would place Palestinians’ ambitions for statehood back on the map with full support from Arab nations.

“For the first time, I feel that there is a unified, unanimous, and sincere Arab agreement on the two-state solution to resolve the conflict,” said Mohammed Dahlan, a former security leader from the Palestinian Fatah movement who is now located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dahlan is currently stationed in the UAE.

“The question is whether the United States is serious and capable of weighing in on Netanyahu to achieve that goal.”

According to a source in the United States, the administration of Vice President Joe Biden believes that Netanyahu is willing to maintain the possibility of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia. However, Netanyahu has not showed any signs of easing his resistance to Palestinian concessions. This is in part due to the fact that such concessions have the potential to destabilize his far-right coalition.

The demand for a pathway to statehood was transmitted during talks in Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. Blinken used this demand to present a unified regional position to Israel on his trip to the Middle East, which took place a month ago.

He informed the reporters that Israel would be need to make difficult choices in order to guarantee its protection and integration in the area for the long term.

In light of the fact that a new plan for a three-stage ceasefire and the release of prisoners in Gaza is currently being discussed, a halt in hostilities could provide Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, with the opportunity to negotiate a favorable agreement.

According to Biden, the accord is very important to him. The Saudi Arabian government is very enthusiastic about the arrangement, according to one of the senior regional insiders who is close to Saudi thinking. “These two parties recognise that time is very tight and they need to do it soon, but the Israelis are making it difficult.”

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