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Updated Sep 21, 2023, 8:45am EDT
politics

Peace with Saudi could be a ‘reverse 9/11,’ top Israeli official says

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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The News

Israeli officials are working to persuade U.S. leaders that a peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia could strengthen the United States well beyond the Middle East.

“Under your leadership, Mr. President, we can forge a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Biden Tuesday.

One of Netanyahu’s top aides, Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, crystallized the argument in a brief conversation with Semafor in Manhattan Wednesday. The deal, he said, could be a “reverse 9/11”; whereas the terror attack, and American response, brought about two decades of suspicion and conflict between the U.S. and Arab world, ushering in an agreement between the Israelis and Saudis could restore Washington’s power and prestige through the region.

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The New York Times reported Wednesday that the U.S. is considering offering Saudi Arabia strong and unprecedented security guarantees in the context of normalization.

“The road will be long and winding and it’s very complex,” the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Barbara Leaf, said at Al Monitor and Semafor’s Middle East Global Summit Wednesday. “It fundamentally has strategic value for the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel.”

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Ben’s view

The Biden administration is accelerating a strategy that began under President Donald Trump of looking for strategic gains, and regional stability, in the developing partnership between Israel and the rich states of the Persian Gulf. The Abraham Accords, signed by Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates at the White House in September of 2020, has already triggered a wave of commerce, investment, and travel between the countries.

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The emerging new global U.S. rivalry with China and the Ukraine war have added urgency to the American approach to this issue, as to most others. Saudi Arabia and Israel’s regional enemy, Iran, is tightly linked to the Russian war effort, while China helps prop up the Russian economy.

The new American approach requires swallowing objections to Saudi autocracy and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, both of which Biden is struggling to balance.

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The View From Jordan

“We and the Egyptians are trying to make this deal successful,” King Abdullah II of Jordan said at Al Monitor & Semafor Middle East Global Summit in Manhattan Wednesday. “You can’t parachute over Palestine and make deals with Israel. Unless we solve this problem there will never be true peace. There are a lot of moving parts. What do the Palestinians get out of it? Look at the slightly bigger picture that ticks all these columns.”

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