Saudi Arabia is determined to secure a defense pact with the US in exchange for normalizing with Israel regardless of whether or not concessions are made to the Palestinians, Reuters reported Friday, citing regional sources.
Riyadh is looking for a commitment from the US that it would defend Saudi Arabia if it comes under attack, similar to NATO’s Article 5, which outlines that an attack on one alliance member is treated as an attack on all. The US is not looking to go as far as an Article 5-style guarantee, but the Reuters report said Saudi Arabia “would not settle for less than binding assurances of US protection if it faced attack.”
A formal US mutual defense guarantee for Saudi Arabia would risk reigniting the war in Yemen, where a ceasefire between the Saudis and the Houthis has held relatively well since April 2022. Such a commitment from the US also risks sparking another war as it would embolden Riyadh in the region.
Saudi officials previously said normalizing with Israel hinges on the Palestinians being granted statehood, but they have backed down on that demand. The Saudis are still paying lip service to Palestinian concerns, but the Reuters report said it’s not a priority for Riyadh.
“The normalization will be between Israel and Saudi Arabia. If the Palestinians oppose it the kingdom will continue in its path,” one of the regional sources told Reuters. “Saudi Arabia supports a peace plan for the Palestinians, but this time it wanted something for Saudi Arabia, not just for the Palestinians.”
It’s unlikely the Saudis would be able to leverage concessions for the Palestinians toward a state under the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since his coalition includes extremist settlers who want to annex the West Bank.