The White House has been 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 it matters: The trip could show that the Biden administration has continued to help foster progress in strengthening relations between Israel and the Arab world after the Trump administration negotiated the Abraham Accords, which led to normalization agreements between Israel and four countries. Arabs.
Driving the news: The White House last week held a briefing with experts from think tanks about Biden’s trip to the region and raised the issue of a “roadmap to normalization” without elaborating, the four sources said.
- The White House said during the briefing that there will not be a deal 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 are saying: The White House believes any roadmap for normalization 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 widening and deepening of Arab-Israeli ties.”
- A senior Israeli official said he does not expect a breakthrough regarding normalization with Saudi Arabia during Biden’s trip, but stressed that a deal to allow Israeli airlines to use Saudi airspace for flights to India and China is very close. .
- “We do not see Israel as an enemy, but as a potential ally in the many interests that we can pursue together, but some issues need to be resolved before we can achieve that,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told early this year. by Bloomberg, citing the official Saudi Press Agency.
Get up to speed quickly: The Biden administration has been quietly mediating 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 first reported.
- If successful, mediation efforts could lead to separate normalization steps.
Between lines: A US source briefed on the White House plans said that, with the roadmap, he believes the White House is trying to lower expectations about what is possible right now and what is not, and focus on starting a process .
The panorama: 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 defense” between the US, Israel and a number of Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, four US sources told The Associated Press. Axios.
- Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said during a foreign affairs and security committee hearing in the Knesset on Monday that the United States and Israel are working on an initiative called “The Air Defense of the Middle East.” He added that Biden’s visit will give the initiative. another push.
- Gantz said the initiative is focused on working together with the 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 linked together to give early warning and intercept attacks.
- Gantz said several Iranian attacks in the region have already been prevented. A senior Israeli official said that one such attack was the shooting down of an Iranian drone over Iraq in February 2021 by US forces using Israeli intelligence.
What to see: Political instability in Israel and the early elections could change calculations in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region regarding normalization steps.
Go deeper: United States negotiates agreement between Saudis, Israelis and Egyptians