Israel’s incoming prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Thursday that the US must “reaffirm” its alliance with Saudi Arabia and that he will seek normalization with Riyadh once in office.
“I think that the alliance, the traditional (US) alliance with Saudi Arabia and other countries, has to be reaffirmed. There should not be periodic swings, or even wild swings in this relationship, because I think that the alliance between America’s allies and with America is the anchor of stability in our region,” Netanyahu told Al-Arabiya English.
Netanyahu’s comments come after the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress called for a change in the US-Saudi relationship in response to OPEC+ oil production cuts in October. But the administration has taken no concrete steps toward that end and worked this week to sabotage a war powers resolution that would have ended US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
Netanyahu said that he intends to discuss the Saudi relationship with President Biden. “I think it requires periodic reaffirmation, and I’m to speak to President Biden about it,” he said.
The incoming prime minister said that he wants to build on the Abraham Accords, which his former government signed in 2020 to establish diplomatic ties with Bahrain and the UAE. Netanyahu said it’s “up to the leadership of Saudi Arabia if they want to partake in this effort.”
Saudi officials recently reaffirmed that they seek a Palestinian state as a precondition for normalizing with Israel. But in order to form a coalition government, Netanyahu gave Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich, an ultranationalist settler, sweeping powers over the West Bank.
Smotrich will take a new minister position in the Israeli Defense Ministry and will be put in charge of a unit that deals with settler construction and the demolition of Palestinian construction. The appointment is seen as speeding up Israel’s de facto annexation of the West Bank.
Netanyahu insisted in the interview that he will be making the decisions over issues in the West Bank and said he would work toward a peace deal with the Palestinians. “All the decisions will be made by me and the defense minister, and that’s actually in the coalition agreement,” he said.
But Netanyahu significantly expanded settlements in the West Bank during his time as prime minister and was hoping to annex areas designated to Israel under a “peace plan” devised by the Trump administration. He only backed down on the plan before signing the Abraham Accords but continued settlement expansion.