Peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be a ‘big deal’: US official

Peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be a “big deal,” a senior Biden administration official said Tuesday, adding that such normalization would be in the interest of the US.

A flurry of diplomatic efforts has been underway as Washington seeks to broker a normalization deal between the two countries in the Middle East.

Whether President Joe Biden will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the G20 summit next month in India remains to be seen.

In return for any deal, Saudi Arabia has reaffirmed its demand for an independent Palestinian state and other Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. Additionally, it has been reported that Saudi Arabia wants increased security commitments from the US as well as help in developing its civilian nuclear program.

Despite US attempts, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said there was a lot of work to be done.

Senior US officials, including Sullivan, Biden’s top energy advisor, and the White House’s policy chief on the Middle East, have recently made multiple trips to Saudi Arabia.

“Don’t expect any imminent announcements on the [civilian nuclear enrichment] issue or the broader question of normalization,” he told reporters during a call on Tuesday. “But it’s something we continue to work on, in close consultation with both the Saudis and the Israelis,” Sullivan added.

Saudi Arabia has publicly disclosed that it was developing its civilian nuclear program and preferred to have the US as one of the bidders for the program. While Saudi Arabia has requested US technology to enrich the uranium Riyadh possesses to produce and then sell fuel, Washington has not made a decision, and Israel has voiced its opposition to such a move.

If the US does not agree, Saudi officials have said they could look to China, Russia or France for help.

As for a broader peace deal, Sullivan said it would help establish a more integrated and stable Middle East, which is in the interest of the US. “Peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be a big deal,” he said. “We have an interest in a more integrated Middle East.”

There are “a lot of elements” to a potential deal that the White House official said they would need to work through with both countries. “From our perspective, it is worthy to pursue this objective.”

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