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US senators express concern over Saudi security demands for possible normalization with Israel

This handout picture released by the Saudi Royal Palace on July 15, 2022 shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) walking with US President Joe Biden at al-Salam Palace in the Red Sea port of Jeddah. (Photo by AFP)

A group of US senators have expressed concern over the security guarantees Saudi Arabia is reportedly demanding from Washington in exchange for normalizing ties with Israel.

In a letter sent on Wednesday, 20 senators urged the Biden administration to be cautious about any security provisions or nuclear assistance to Saudi Arabia, while endorsing Washington’s efforts to establish relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.

"We are maintaining an open mind about any agreement that would potentially deepen the political, cultural and economic ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel," they said in the letter, spearheaded by Senators Chris Murphy, Chris Van Hollen, Peter Welch, and Dick Durbin.

However, they said, “a high degree of proof would be required to show that a binding defense treaty with Saudi Arabia … aligns with US interests."

The letter also raised concerns over the possibility of the US helping Saudi Arabia with a nuclear program.

The senators went on to say that “the provision of more advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia should be done with careful deliberation to ensure that such equipment only be used for truly defensive purposes and does not contribute to a regional arms race.”

They further suggested that any agreement should include “meaningful” provisions to preserve the option of the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In late July, the Biden administration announced that a deal for Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalize relations may be on the horizon following National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan’s talks with Saudi officials in Jeddah.

In order to sign a deal with Israel, Riyadh publicly asked Tel Aviv to implement the 2002 so-called Arab Peace Initiative, conditioning normalizing ties with Israel on the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

However, members of the far-right Israeli regime, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, say they will not make any concession to the Palestinians as part of a potential deal for normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia.

Recently, reports emerged of an agreement on the general outline of an Israeli-Saudi normalization pact.

Under the deal, Riyadh would secure American backing for a civilian nuclear program, as well as access to advanced weapons. In exchange, the kingdom would take major steps to distance itself from China and Israel would allow an independent Palestinian state.

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