In my Sunday column, I mentioned that US President Joe Biden had prepared a plan for Saudi Arabia to join the so-called “Abraham Accords,” which aim to establish formal diplomatic relations between Israel and leading Arab countries. Biden sent his National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, and “Middle East and North Africa Coordinator” Brett McGurk to Saudi Arabia last weekend for exploratory talks.
It is said that Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz opposes establishing official relations with Israel until the “Palestinian issue” is resolved. Trump was unable to persuade Riyadh to join these agreements. For Biden, who is preparing for the 2024 Presidential elections, including Riyadh in the accords is a matter of great prestige. Furthermore, convincing Riyadh to increase oil production would further strengthen Biden’s hand by lowering gasoline prices in the US.
According to comments in the American media, the Saudis are seeking a “defense guarantee” from the US as clear as NATO’s Article 5. Another expectation of the Saudis is access to American nuclear technology, both of which are related to Iran.
Before being elected, Biden promised to return to the “Iran Nuclear Deal,” which was disrupted by Trump. However, both Saudi Arabia and Israel do not want the US to return to the “Nuclear Deal.” Additionally, Israel opposes Saudi Arabia gaining access to nuclear technology, just as pro-Israel politicians in the American Congress hold the same view.
China’s leading role in re-establishing diplomatic relations between Tehran and Riyadh seems to have opened the eyes of the Biden Administration. There is a saying attributed to Winston Churchill: “Americans always do the right thing, but only after exhausting all other possibilities.” This time, it might be too late for “Americans to do the right thing.” At this stage, Riyadh’s decision to break diplomatic relations with Iran remains uncertain. On the other hand, it will be very difficult for Riyadh, which holds Mecca and Medina, to support Biden’s plan if satisfactory steps are not taken for the Palestinians.The issue for Americans is not only about the Israel-Saudi Agreement. Riyadh’s refusal to participate in sanctions against Russia, failure to increase oil production despite Biden’s insistence, and its moves towards closer relations with China are among the headlines that bother the US. The Saudis haven’t forgotten the harsh words Biden used about them before the 2020 elections. In summary, the US-Saudi relationship has not been going well during the Biden era.
For Biden to advance his “Saudi plan,” he needs to first convince Israel to abandon the annexation of the West Bank. Considering the components of the coalition government in Israel, it doesn’t seem likely that Netanyahu will give up his annexation policy.
For Netanyahu to take the steps expected by the Biden Administration, he would have to risk the collapse of the coalition. Forming a new government would also be difficult for Netanyahu, as opposition parties have previously announced that they won’t join the same coalition with him. Even for opposition parties, the “West Bank” issue is a serious handicap.
Can Biden pressure Israel to take action? Can he persuade both parties in the American Congress in this regard? The US consistently follows a policy of supporting Israel in any circumstance. Israel’s disregard for “UN” resolutions and continuous disruption or delay of “Two-state solution” initiatives are due to always having the support of the US. As long as the US doesn’t change this policy, Israel will not be willing to take positive steps in the “Palestinian issue.”
It’s unknown if any progress was made during National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The statements from the “White House” do not provide any hints. The statements mentioned that they discussed bilateral and regional issues, including efforts to advance a joint vision for the Middle East region, and both sides agreed to continue regular consultations and follow up on the issues discussed. Direct mention of Israel was not made in the statement.
The knot in the Middle East is Palestine. The US has played the lead role in making this issue a “knot.” No American plan will succeed without resolving this knot. Americans should have learned this by now.