US working on normalization ‘roadmap’ for Saudi Arabia and Israel

The White House is working on a “road map for normalization” between Israel and Saudi Arabia ahead of President Biden’s visit to the Middle East next month, according to four US sources briefed on the matter.

Why is this important: The trip could show that the Biden administration continued to help advance warming relations between Israel and the Arab world after the Trump administration brokered the Abraham Accords, which led to normalization agreements between Israel and four Arab countries.

Driving the news: The White House held a briefing last week with think tank experts on Biden’s trip to the region and launched the topic of a “roadmap to normalization” without giving further details, officials said. four springs.

  • The White House said during the briefing that there will be no 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 sources said.

What they say : The White House believes any normalization roadmap will take time and be a long-term process, another source briefed on the matter said. Another source briefed on the matter described the strategy as a step-by-step approach.

  • A White House National Security Council spokesman said they “support the broadening and deepening of Arab-Israeli relations.”
  • A senior Israeli official said he did not expect a major breakthrough on normalization with Saudi Arabia during Biden’s trip, but stressed that a deal allowing Israeli airlines to use space Saudi Airline for flights to India and China is very close.
  • “We do not see Israel as an enemy, but rather as a potential ally in the many interests we can pursue together, but some issues need to be resolved before we can achieve that,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said more early this year, by Bloombergciting the official Saudi Press Agency.

Catch up fast: The Biden administration has been quietly negotiating between Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt over a potential deal to finalize the transfer of two strategic Red Sea islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, as Axios has reported. reported for the first time.

  • If successful, mediation efforts could lead to separate normalization steps.

Between the lines: A US source briefed on the White House’s plans said that with the roadmap, he believes the White House is trying to lower expectations about what is possible at the moment and what is not and to focus on starting a process.

The big picture: During Biden’s visit to the Middle East, the White House also plans for the president to discuss a vision of “integrated missile defense and naval defence” between the United States, Israel and several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia. , four US sources told Axios.

  • Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz told a Knesset Foreign Relations and Security Committee hearing on Monday that the United States and Israel were working on an initiative called “Air Defense of the Middle East”. East”. He added that Biden’s visit would give the initiative another boost.
  • Gantz said the initiative focuses on working with US Central Command and other countries in the region to counter drone, rocket and cruise missile attacks by Iran and its proxies.
  • A senior Israeli official said the idea is to create a regional network of radars, sensors and air defense systems that will be connected in order to give early warning and intercept attacks.
  • Gantz said several Iranian attacks in the area had already been prevented. A senior Israeli official said one such attack was the downing of an Iranian drone over Iraq in February 2021 by US forces using Israeli intelligence.

What to watch: Political instability in Israel and early elections could change the calculations in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region regarding normalization steps.

Go further: US negotiates Saudi-Israeli-Egyptian deal

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