Post-script: Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman denied this report 4 days after it appeared and maintained that the negotiations with Israel are continuing, with the two sides getting closer. Either the Israeli source was misinformed or was leaking to put pressure on the Crown Prince; if the latter it appears to have succeeded.
Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Arabic newspaper al-Ilaf is reporting that its reporters in Jerusalem were told by an official in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that Saud Arabia had informed the Biden administration that it would halt talks regarding normalization of relations with Israel.
One of the major diplomatic efforts of Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been to build on the so-called “Abraham Accords” put together by Jared Kushner, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and special envoy to the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have joined in establishing diplomatic and commercial relations with Israel, though Sudan’s generals were blackmailed into it and the civilian government pledges to revisit the matter when open elections are held.
That Biden’s team was attempting to bring Saudi Arabia aboard has been repeatedly reported, especially by the Wall Street Journal, though many seasoned observers of the Middle East are deeply skeptical that these talks are more than likely fruitless explorations. For one thing, Saudi King Salman, 87, is said to be dead set against making a separate peace with Israel that would injure the interests of the Palestinians. For another, Israel currently has the most extremist government in its history, and it is full of hard line Zionist expansionists intent on annexing the Palestinian West Bank. Were Netanyahu to accept a settlement freeze, the extremist Religious Zionism and Jewish Power blocs may well resign from the coalition and cause the government to fall.
Al-Ilaf says that it is precisely because Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionism and Itamar Ben-Gvir of Jewish Power are dead set against concessions to the Palestinians and that Netanyahu has acquiesced in their demands that the Saudis are withdrawing from the talks. The newspaper says that the Saudis had cleverly included the Palestinians in the talks behind the scenes, ensuring that they had a voice in whatever happens.
The Wall Street Journal stories about Netanyahu talking to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman were allegedly based on leaks by Israel’s minister of propaganda, Ron Dermer.
The Israelis are said to have been convinced that they could do a deal with Riyadh that excluded the Palestinians.
Why are the Israelis leaking news of these failed talks with the Saudis now? Is it a way for Netanyahu to pressure Smotrich and Ben-Gvir into making concessions for the sake of the potential bonanza of Saudi relations with Israel?
If, so, the latter two don’t appear to be the sort of rational individuals who would be open to an argument of that sort.
Is it a way to pressure the Saudis to give up some of their demands or risk a complete collapse of this round of negotiations?
Or did the Saudis use Netanyahu’s office to impress upon the Biden team that they are not happy with what they are being offered in order to join the Abraham Accords, including their longstanding demand for a US security guarantee of the sort Washington has with NATO allies, where an attack on one is an attack on all.
Or maybe King Salman is still robust enough to slap down a process that he foresees will further screw over the West Bank Palestinians.