National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday in the first high-level US visit to the country since the new Israeli government was sworn in.
Among other topics, Netanyahu and Sullivan discussed the possibility of Israel normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia. Both Israel and the US want to see Israel normalize with more Gulf Arab nations, as it did with the UAE and Bahrain under the Abraham Accords, as part of a plan to build an anti-Iran alliance in the region.
Publicly, Saudi officials seem reluctant to work toward normalization with Israel, but the two countries have been quietly boosting some cooperation. Netanyahu called for the US to mend its relations with Saudi Arabia after the Biden administration publicly feuded with the Kingdom over OPEC+ oil production cuts that were announced in October.
Biden administration officials vowed there would be consequences for the oil cuts, but The Wall Street Journal recently reported that they dropped the threats, and relations have improved as the US and Saudi Arabia are stepping up military cooperation against Iran.
Iran was another topic of conversation between Sullivan and Netanyahu. The White House said during Sullivan’s talks with Netanyahu and other officials, he “restated the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and to countering the continued threats posed by Iran to Israel, the United States, and the wider region.”
Sullivan also met with Israel’s defense minister, the head of the Mossad spy agency, the head of Israel’s military, and his new counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, a major Iran hawk. Hanegbi has repeatedly threatened that Israel could attack Iran and said Netanyahu would do so if the US doesn’t negotiate a stricter Iran deal or take military action of its own.
The meetings came amid concern over the new government’s plans to expand settlements in the West Bank and overhaul Israel’s judiciary system, which includes a plan to allow the Knesset to override Israel’s top court. US officials told Axios that Sullivan raised both issues in a private meeting with Netanyahu.