Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said that the Kingdom is moving towards a deal to normalise relations with Israel.
Speaking to Fox News, Bin Salman rebuffed reports that the process to establish relations between the nations had stalled over Israeli opposition to make concession vis-a-vis the Palestinians, saying “good negotiations” are ongoing.
“We hope that it will reach a place that will ease the life of the Palestinians, and get Israel as a player in the Middle East,” he said during the interview. “Every day we get closer.”
Riyadh has insisted that any deal to establish ties with Israel include a component advancing efforts to establish a Palestinian state, concessions that Israel has so far flatly shot down as its far-right government continues to expand Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The interview with the Crown Prince came as U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration presses ahead with an effort to broker historic ties between the two countries who are its top Middle East allies.
The broadcast of the Crown Prince’s comments followed a meeting between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, in which they pledged to work together towards Israeli-Saudi normalisation.
In addition to the Palestinian file, Saudi Arabia is reportedly seeking additional concessions from Washington as part of any potential agreement, including a security pact with the U.S., sales of advanced weapons and assistance in developing a civilian nuclear program.
Israel and Saudi Arabia are regional rivals of Iran, and bin Salman said that if Tehran should acquire a nuclear weapon “we have to get one.”
Israel remains the sole nuclear-armed nation in the Middle East, but has repeatedly declined to confirm the fact publicly as part of a policy of strategic ambiguity.
The traditional Muslim and Arab position towards Israel has historically been one of full political and economic boycott.
But this has been undermined in recent years by the Abraham Accords – bilateral agreements on Arab–Israeli normalisation signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on September 15, 2020.
In December 2020, the Israel–Morocco normalisation agreement was also signed. In exchange for Morocco’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty, the United States recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.
And on January 6, 2021, following up on the Israel–Sudan normalization agreement (signed in October 2020), the government of Sudan signed the “Abraham Accords Declaration” in Khartoum.
Though the process of full normalisation is ongoing, the United States has incentivised the deal by agreeing to abolish Sudan’s status as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” while also providing a loan of US$1.2 billion to help the Sudanese government clear the country’s debts to the World Bank.
Egypt and Jordan signed normalisation deals with Israel in 1978 and 1994 respectively.