US committed to Saudi, Israeli normalisation

WASHINGTON DC (Agencies): The United States is committed to brokering formal diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, as President Joe Biden’s administration continues an Israel “normalisation” push. Speaking at a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an influential pro-Israel lobby group in the US, Blinken said on Monday that Washington “has a real national security interest in promoting normalisation” between the two countries. “We believe that we can – and indeed we must – play an integral role in advancing it,” he said.
Blinken, who will visit Saudi Arabia this week, acknowledged that a deal may not be finalised easily. “But we remain committed to working toward that outcome, including on the trip I’m about to take this week to Jeddah and Riyadh,” he added. The top US diplomat’s comments come amid an apparent regional realignment after Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to re-establish their own diplomatic ties in a move expected to reduce tensions across the Middle East.
Few Arabs states have recognised Israel – a key US ally in the region – since its establishment in 1948, but former US President Donald Trump’s administration helped secure agreements to establish relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco in 2020. Sudan also agreed to join the normalisation deals, known as the Abraham Accords. Reporting from the White House on Monday, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett said that while it has been known that the US was pushing for Saudi Arabia and Israel to establish diplomatic ties, it was significant that Blinken explicitly called the drive a national security interest.
“And so, as a result the US sees itself as being absolutely critical in advancing the integration of Israel in the region,” she said. Israeli officials have been calling for the normalisation deals, which would help break the country’s regional isolation, independent from its conflict with the Palestinians. This year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is seeking formal relations with Saudi Arabia because it could be a “giant leap towards ending the Arab-Israeli conflict”. For their part, Saudi officials have said Riyadh is sticking by the Arab Peace Initiative, which conditions normalisation with Israel on its withdrawal from Arab territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state, as well as finding a “fair solution” to the plight of Palestinian refugees.
On Monday, Blinken heaped praise on Israel, telling the AIPAC crowd that the US commitment to the country’s security is “non-negotiable”. The secretary of state also renewed a promise by the Biden administration to never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. “We continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to verifiably, effectively and sustainably prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon; in parallel, economic pressure and deterrence reinforce our diplomacy,” he said.
Indirect talks between Washington and Tehran to revive a 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Iran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against its economy, have broken down in recent months. Israel and AIPAC have been fierce opponents of the agreement, which Trump withdrew from unilaterally in 2018.
Efforts to restore the pact – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – have been further complicated by a crackdown on anti-government protests in Iran and Washington’s allegations that Tehran supplied Russia with drones that Moscow is using against Ukraine.