Saudi Arabia Is Laying the Groundwork for Normalization with Israel

Since the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020, there has been hope and speculation that Saudi Arabia will be the next Arab country to make peace with the Jewish state—speculation that has intensified more recently with reports of diplomatic activity by the Biden administration. Haisam Hassanein observes that the kingdom appears to be taking steps to ready its population for such a development:

Traditionally, Riyadh adopted an unfriendly stance toward Israel due to its conflict with the Palestinians. Clerics in Friday sermons would lash out at Washington and Jerusalem over the plight of Palestinians. Conspiracy theories about Israel abounded. . . . Over the past year, [however], there have been numerous signs of open warming. Last fall, Riyadh hosted Samer Haj Yehia, chairman of Israel’s Bank Leumi, as a panelist at the Saudi investor forum, where Yehia described “amazing” opportunities in the desert kingdom. In a June press conference, the Saudi foreign minister Faisal bin Farhan said that normalization with Israel “would bring significant benefits” to the region.

In Saudi-affiliated media as well, Israel and normalization are no longer taboo. When rockets from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip were launched at Israel in July, the London-based Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat avoided pejorative labels for Israeli troops such as “occupation forces.” The Saudi news network Al-Arabiya hosted Israelis to share their thoughts on issues unrelated to the Palestinians as well as Arab commentators who shared favorable views of Gulf normalization with Jerusalem while demanding that the Palestinians give peace a chance.

This openness stands in stark contrast to popular attitudes among Israel’s longtime Arab peace partners, Egypt and Jordan. Just this week, a hotel in Egypt reportedly kicked out an Israeli model after discovering her nationality. Meanwhile, Israeli and Jewish tourists have complained of anti-Semitic abuse when entering the Hashemite kingdom. . . .

[In Saudi Arabia], the overall trend is running strongly in favor of normalization. The kingdom has been paving the road to prepare its population for such a historical moment so that when peace comes, it will hopefully be a warm one.

Read more at FDD

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel diplomacy, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy