The White House has worked on a “roadmap for normalization” between Israel and Saudi Arabia in advance President Biden’s visit to the Middle East next month, according to four U.S. sources briefed on the issue.
Why it’s important: The trip could show that the Biden administration continues to help advance progress in warming relations between Israel and the Arab world after the Trump administration mediated Abraham’s agreementswhich led to normalization agreements between Israel and four Arab countries.
Driver news: The White House last week held a briefing with think tank experts on Biden’s trip to the region, hovering the theme of a “roadmap for normalization” without elaborating, the four sources said.
- The White House said during the briefing that there will be no agreement before Biden’s visit, but they are working on it and the president will discuss it with Israeli and Saudi leaders during the trip, the sources said.
What they say: The White House believes that any roadmap for normalization will take time and will be a long-term process, said another source who briefed on the issue. Another source who was briefed on the case described the strategy as a step-by-step approach.
- A spokesman for the White House National Security Council said they “support the expansion and deepening of Arab-Israeli ties.”
- A senior Israeli official said he did not expect a major breakthrough in normalization with Saudi Arabia during Biden’s trip, but stressed that an agreement to allow Israeli airlines to use Saudi airspace for flights to India and China is very close. .
- “We do not see Israel as an enemy, but rather as a potential ally in the many interests we can pursue together, but some issues need to be resolved before we can achieve that,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said earlier this year. about Bloombergwith reference to the official Saudi press agency.
Come quickly with: The Biden administration has quietly mediated between Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt on a potential agreement to complete the transfer of two strategic islands in the Red Sea from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, as Axios first reported.
- If successful, mediation efforts can lead to separate normalization steps.
Between the lines: An American source who was briefed on the plans in the White House said that with the roadmap, he believes that the White House is trying to lower expectations of what is possible at the moment and what is not, and focus on starting a process.
The big picture: During Biden’s visit to the Middle East, the White House also plans for the president to discuss a vision for “integrated missile defense and naval defense” among the United States, Israel and several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, four U.S. sources told Axios.
- Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said during a hearing by the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee on Monday that the United States and Israel are working on an initiative called “The Middle East Air Defense.” He added that Biden’s visit will give the initiative another boost.
- Gantz said the initiative focuses on working with the U.S. Central Command and other countries in the region to counter drone, rocket and cruise missile attacks by Iran and its deputies.
- A senior Israeli official said the idea is to create a regional network of radars, sensors and air defense systems that will be connected in order to provide early warning and intercept attacks.
- Gantz said several Iranian attacks in the region have already been prevented. A senior Israeli official said such an attack was a shooting down of an Iranian drone over Iraq in February 2021 by US forces using Israeli intelligence.
What to see: The political instability in Israel and the early elections may change the calculations in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region regarding normalization steps.