Axios reported Wednesday that the Biden administration wants to make a strong diplomatic push for a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel before the end of the year.
Any potential deal could come at a steep cost to the US as Riyadh is seeking stronger military support from Washington in exchange for establishing diplomatic ties with Israel. The Wall Street Journal reported in March that the Saudis want security guarantees and help to establish a nuclear program.
The US and Israel have been hoping to build on the normalization deals with the UAE and Bahrain and want Saudi Arabia to be next. A major aspect of the plan is to form an anti-Iran military alliance between Israel and the Gulf states, but that idea could be in jeopardy after Riyadh’s surprise normalization deal with Tehran.
Saudi Arabia’s steps to normalize with Iran and Syria blindsided the US and put Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a good position to extract concessions from the US. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan recently visited Saudi Arabia and discussed the prospect of an Israeli normalization deal with MbS.
A US official told Axios that MbS said he “doesn’t want to take any more incremental steps toward warming relations with Israel, but instead, work toward one big package that will include US deliverables like stronger military cooperation.”
Two US officials said that it would be in Saudi Arabia’s interest to reach a deal during the Biden administration, as Democrats in Congress would likely oppose giving Riyadh more military support under a Republican administration.