Normalization talks between Israel & Saudi Arabia.
Mohammed bin Salman received his first phone call from Ebrahim Raisi.
Sidelining the Palestinian issue might potentially upset Arab nations.
Saudi Arabia has opted to temporarily halt US-backed initiatives for normalizing relations with Israel, marking a swift reevaluation of its foreign policy priorities in light of the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The ongoing war has also prompted Saudi Arabia to engage with Iran as it endeavors to prevent a broader regional escalation of violence. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) recently received his first phone call from Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Two sources have disclosed that talks sponsored by the US for normalizing relations with Israel will be postponed. These negotiations were a pivotal step for Saudi Arabia in securing a US defense pact as part of the deal.
Leaders from both Israel and Saudi Arabia were progressing toward an agreement that could have reshaped the Middle East before the Hamas attack on Israel.
Saudi Arabia has indicated that it will not allow its pursuit of a US defense pact to be derailed unless Israel offers substantial concessions to the Palestinians in their quest for statehood.
However, sidelining the Palestinian issue might potentially upset Arab nations.
Hamas fighters caused the deaths of over 1,300 Israelis in their October 7 attack, and Israel’s ongoing strikes on Gaza in response have resulted in more than 2,000 Palestinian casualties by Saturday.
One of the sources familiar with Saudi Arabia’s stance stated that talks cannot continue at this time and that the matter of Israeli concessions to the Palestinians must be of greater importance when discussions resume, suggesting that Riyadh has not abandoned the idea.
However, the Saudi government has not responded to Reuters’ request for comment.
Saudi Arabia’s reevaluation underscores the challenges facing Washington’s efforts to further integrate Israel into a region where the Palestinian cause remains a significant Arab concern.
Saudi analyst Aziz Alghashian commented, “Normalization was already considered taboo (in the Arab world) … this war only amplifies that.”
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated at a White House briefing this week that the normalization effort was “not on hold” but acknowledged that the focus is currently on other immediate challenges while Washington seeks to build on the Abraham Accords, in which Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates, normalized ties.
Washington urged Riyadh to denounce the Hamas attack, but Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan pushed back.
The regional conflict has prompted the Saudi crown prince and Iran’s president to engage in their first-ever conversation following a Chinese-brokered initiative that restored diplomatic relations in April.
A Saudi statement noted that the crown prince informed Raisi that “the kingdom is exerting maximum effort to engage with all international and regional parties to halt the ongoing escalation,” emphasizing Riyadh’s move to contain the crisis.
A senior Iranian official indicated that the call, made by Raisi to the crown prince, aimed to support “Palestine and prevent the spread of war in the region.”
“The call was good and promising,” the official added.
A second Iranian official stated that the call lasted for 45 minutes and had the blessing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.