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Is a Saudi-Israel peace deal possible?

Saudi media speculates whether a US-brokered normalization agreement between Israel and the kingdom is possible

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Arab League summit, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 19, 2023. (Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS)

There is broad speculation about a possible Saudi-Israel peace deal, according to several Saudi Arabian media outlets, who are skeptical that the United States would broker such a deal in return for “significant concessions," including the dissolution of the current hardline coalition by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Saudi media operates under the direct control of the state, so it is likely that all opinion pieces have been pre-approved and are closely aligned with the views of the kingdom.

Faisal J. Abbas, the lead editor of the English-language daily Arab News, wrote that “it is highly likely that a peace deal might be possible.” The statement came after U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's visit to the port city of Jeddah last week.

Abbas focused on the relationship between the Saudi Kingdom and the U.S., saying the two countries face common enemies. He also said that the Saudis demand the signing of a mutual defense agreement with the U.S., similar to NATO, which would provide advanced technology for national defense, as well as the development of a Saudi nuclear program.

According to Abbas, there is a concern that the rest of the Arab and Muslim world see the agreement as a betrayal of the Palestinians. The ongoing talks had been kept secret, much like the Oslo Accords in the 1990s until an agreement was reached.

Abbas hailed Saudi Arabia’s consistent and practical approach in dealing with Israel.

In 2002, Saudi Arabia spearheaded the Arab peace initiative to secure “Palestinian rights first while at the same time offering Israel the recognition and guarantees it needs,” Abbas stated.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) also declared last year that the kingdom sees Israel as a potential ally, Abbas added.

“Israel has never been a security threat to Saudi Arabia,” he continued. “A peace treaty with Israel would mean that the only real threat to the kingdom would be from Iran and the Houthis.”

Unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia has had “deeply rooted” relations with the U.S. for some 80 years, Abbas also noted. He encouraged the Biden administration to accept the Saudi request for military aid to protect their oil wells and avoid supply shortages and price shocks.

In Abbas' editorial, he recognized that a potential peace deal with the kingdom could be an attempt by U.S. President Joe Biden to weaken Israel's Netanyahu-led coalition by convincing the prime minister to form a more moderate government. Traditionally, the Saudi government has insisted upon the creation of a Palestinian state as one of the conditions for a normalization agreement with Israel.

Abbas reasoned that a peace deal would constitute “a huge step forward for Palestinians, Israelis, and indeed for Saudi Arabia, which… aspires to be a force for good across the region and the world.”

In another editorial, Saudi journalist Tarik al-Homayed wrote in the Al-Sharq al-Awsat that Israel has by now become part of the landscape of the Middle East.

Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East,” al-Homayed wrote, adding, “Israel is today trying to ensure its own stability and prosperity under the pressure of competing extremist forces."

“The West praises Israel for its democracy despite the fact that Netanyahu is trying to restrict the judiciary in the absence of a written constitution, and despite 'all that Israel does in the occupied territories,'” he wrote.

He also stated that Washington has “no right to lecture the rest of the Middle East about the necessity of an independent judiciary.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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