Biden delegation heads to Riyadh for talks on Israel peace deal

Saudi Arabia may reconsider its stance on on Palestinian statehood before normalization, but the deal would still entail major steps towards it.

By World Israel News Staff

A high-level U.S. delegation is set to meet Saudi representatives this week in Riyadh, with the aim of discussing a possible normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Brett McGurk, the White House Middle East czar, along with Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, are leading the delegation. Their visit follows closely on the heels of another by other U.S. officials, including Jake Sullivan and Antony Blinken, who had met with Saudi officials in the Gulf Kingdom on a similar mission last month.

Of note, the U.S. officials’ trip coincides with a visit by a Palestinian team, headed by Hussein al-Sheikh, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee. According to U.S. and Palestinian officials cited by The Times of Israel, the Palestinian delegation hopes to influence the potential benefits Ramallah could gain from a Saudi-Israeli deal.

While the White House remains tight-lipped about the visit, the State Department indicated that no announcements are due at this point.

According to the insiders, while Saudi Arabia is willing to reconsider its long-held public position of not normalizing relations with Israel unless there’s a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, any prospective deal with Israel would likely entail significant progress towards Palestinian statehood.

Among the measures proposed are U.S. support for Palestine’s statehood recognition at the U.N., reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinians, cancelling congressional legislation deeming the PA as a terror organization, the transfer of territory in Judea and Samaria from Israeli to Palestinian control, and demolishing illegal outposts in the same area, the report said.

These measures could prove to be substantial diplomatic wins for the Palestinian Authority. Nevertheless, they seem to fall short of the extensive demands historically put forward by Ramallah. Recent talks revealed that the Biden administration has been somewhat skeptical about some Palestinian proposals, suggesting they temper their demands.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich remarked recently that any notion of Israeli concessions to the Palestinians in a potential normalization deal is “fiction.”

Saudi Arabia’s main demands, meanwhile, seem to be focused on the U.S. Riyadh’s wishlist includes a mutual security pact with the U.S., similar to NATO arrangements, a civilian nuclear program supported by the U.S., and permissions to acquire advanced weapons from the U.S. In return, the U.S. hopes Saudi Arabia will lower the flame on its economic and military affiliations with China and Russia and boost the ceasefire that terminated Yemen’s civil war.

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Any U.S.-Saudi treaty would need substantial Senate support, however, which is a tall order given the political landscape and concerns regarding Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.