“Saudi Arabia is putting US-backed plans to normalize ties with Israel on ice,” two sources familiar with Riyadh’s thinking told Reuters on Friday, as war escalates between Israel and Palestinian resistance movements.
“The conflict has also pushed the kingdom to engage with Iran,” the sources added, stressing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took his first phone call from Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi as Riyadh tries to prevent a broader surge in violence across the region.
The two sources described the delay in the US-backed talks on normalization with Israel as a “key step” for the kingdom to secure what Riyadh considers the real prize of a US military pact in exchange.
Both Israeli and Saudi authorities had been claiming they were moving steadily towards a deal.
The Saudi crown prince told Fox News in an interview aired late last month that they “get closer” every day to normalization with the Israeli regime. And Israeli Premiere Benjamin Netanyahu said during his UN speech last month that the regime was at the cusp of a historic normalization deal with Saudi Arabia.
However, the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip has reportedly blocked further talks. The Israeli attacks started on Saturday after Palestinian resistance groups launched multi-pronged Operation al-Aqsa Storm, the largest military operation against the illegal entity in decades. The Palestinian resistance says the offensive was in response to the desecration of the al-Aqsa Mosque and increased violence against Palestinians.
Gaza’s Health Ministry confirmed that over 1,900 people, including 614 children and 370 women, have been killed and more than 7,900 injured due to Israeli bombardment across the coastal area. A large number of buildings, homes and public facilities have also been badly damaged due to heavy Israeli bombardments.
“Talks could not be continued for now and the issue of Israeli concessions for the Palestinians would need to be a bigger priority when discussions resumed,” the sources stressed.
One of the sources familiar with Saudi thinking also said Washington had pressed Riyadh this week to condemn the Hamas-led operation but said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan pushed back.
The military operation by the Palestinians against the occupying regime saw more than 5,000 rockets in retaliatory strikes fired at the occupied territories, which left upwards of 1,300 settlers and troops dead and three times as many injured.
Washington’s efforts for adding Saudi Arabia to the list of Arab countries that have signed the Abraham Accords come at a critical time when US President Joe Biden is seeking re-election and the US government has been left embarrassed by the kingdom’s bolstering of ties with Iran and Syria, and its further gravitation toward China.
The UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco signed US-brokered normalization agreements with Israel in 2020, drawing condemnations from Palestinians who slammed the deals as “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people.”