US President Joe Biden will reportedly push for a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and the Israeli regime during his upcoming tour of the Middle East.
Biden’s Middle East trip, slated for mid-July, includes a visit to Saudi Arabia, during which he is expected to meet Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed Bin Salman, widely known as MBS.
Biden administration officials are currently working on a normalization “roadmap” for Saudi Arabia and Israel, Axios, an American news website, reported, citing four US sources briefed on the issue.
Biden is also scheduled to visit the Israeli occupied territories during his trip. Earlier, Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said that integrating the regime into the region was the main goal of Biden’s upcoming visit, hoping that potential normalization with Saudi Arabia will boost the occupying entity’s “standing” in the region.
The US president had vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over the kingdom’s human rights record and the gruesome murder of dissident Jamal Khashoggi, which was ordered by MBS.
Biden apparently seeks to carry on with his predecessor Donald Trump so-called Abraham Accords, which led to normalization of ties between Israel and four Arab countries namely Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Sudan.
During a White House briefing held last week with think thank experts about Biden’s trip to the region, the theme of a “roadmap for normalization” was put forward without further elaboration, Axios said.
The report added, “The White House said during the briefing that there will not be an agreement before Biden's visit, but they are working on it and the president will discuss it with Israeli and Saudi leaders during the trip.”
The report, however, cited unnamed sources as saying that it appears the White House thinks that normalization will take time and will be a long-term process and described the strategy as “a step-by-step approach.”
On that, a senior Israeli official said he does not expect a breakthrough regarding normalization with Saudi Arabia during Biden’s trip, but stressed that an agreement to allow Israeli airlines to use Saudi airspace for flights to India and China is very close.
In highly controversial comments earlier this year, MBS said that Saudi Arabia does not view Israel as an enemy, but as an ally who can pursue many interests together. However, he said “some issues must be resolved before we can reach that,” Bloomberg reported, citing the official Saudi Press Agency.
Meanwhile, the Axios report said that the White House plans for the US president to discuss a vision for an “integrated missile defense and naval defense” program among the US, Israel, and several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh and Tel Aviv have no diplomatic ties on the surface, but the two regimes have long been in contact and cooperation clandestinely.
Saudi Arabia publicly affirms that it supports the Palestinian cause against Israeli occupation, claiming that it will not recognize Israel or normalize relations with the regime as long as the Palestinian issue remains unresolved.
However, MBS is widely known for being apathetic towards the Palestinian issue. He notoriously told American Jewish leaders in 2018 that the Palestinians should take the Trump administration’s proposals “or shut up and stop complaining.”