Biden dispatches top adviser for talks with Saudi crown prince on normalizing relations with Israel

27 July 2023

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden dispatched his national security adviser Jake Sullivan to Saudi Arabia on Thursday for talks with the kingdom’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the White House pushes for a normalization of relations between the country and Israel.

The White House in a brief statement said that Sullivan arrived in Jeddah on Thursday for talks with the crown prince, who is often referred to by his initial MBS, and other Saudi officials. The wide-ranging talks covered initiatives to “advance a common vision for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous, and stable Middle East,” and efforts to find a permanent end to the years-long conflict between the Saudis and Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen, according to the White House.

Sullivan and MBS also discussed the Biden administration’s hopes to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, according to a White House National Security Council official familiar with the matter. The official was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The effort to strengthen the historically fraught relationship between the Middle East’s two significant powers comes after the Trump administration helped usher in the “Abraham Accords,” normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.

A normalization deal with Saudi Arabia, the most powerful and wealthy Arab state, has the potential to reshape the region and boost Israel’s standing in historic ways. But brokering such a deal is a heavy lift as the kingdom has said it won’t officially recognize Israel before a resolution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sullivan’s visit comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to the kingdom last month in part to promote normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

During Blinken’s recent visit, Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said that normalization with Israel would have “limited benefits” without “finding a pathway to peace for the Palestinian people.”

The Saudis have also shown hesitance to proceed with normalizing relations with Israel at a time when it is led by the most right-wing government in its history, and when tensions have soared with the Palestinians.

The Saudis have repeatedly called for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, territories Israel seized in the 1967 war.

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