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A US–Saudi deal deserves its own scrutiny, regardless of Israeli normalization


Any security deal would have significant implications for both countries and the Middle East. It deserves more serious attention than it has received so far.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman on 19 May in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, to put the finishing touches on a major US-Saudi deal, according to reports. The deal proposes enhanced bilateral cooperation on defence, civilian nuclear energy, and future technologies. 

Sullivan’s visit is the latest step in a year-long process meant to promote what US President Joe Biden views as a transformational plan for the Middle East: a Saudi-Israeli normalization accord that obliges Israel to commit to the creation of an independent Palestinian state and grants Saudi Arabia official US security guarantees.

US–Saudi negotiations have made headway, but the Israel leg of this deal has fallen flat. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to oppose the Palestinians’ right to a state of their own, and therefore his country’s obligations toward the three-way deal.

Netanyahu is not alone in his position. Earlier this year, a poll showed that most Israelis are against the creation of a Palestinian state, following Hamas’s terrorist attack against Israel on 7 October.

If Israel’s failure to commit persists, there will be no Saudi-Israeli normalization. As a result, the US Congress will not endorse a US–Saudi defence pact (the US Senate’s role in ratifying formal defence pacts between the US and foreign countries is indispensable). Indeed, in a rare moment of bipartisan consensus, Democrats and Republicans have agreed to move forward with a US–Saudi pact only if Saudi Arabia officially embraces Israel.

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