The startling clash between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which threatens to become a regional conflict, jeopardizes the months-long effort by President Biden and his top aides to push Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel.
Even before the assault by Palestinian militants of Hamas on Israeli towns on Saturday morning, American officials, including Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, had warned that the complex diplomacy over normalization might not bear fruit. On Saturday, Mr. Blinken was at the White House making calls to foreign counterparts on the new conflict. He and other U.S. officials were focused on quelling the war, not on diplomacy over Saudi-Israel normalization.
Saudi Arabia has made significant demands of the United States, including a mutual defense treaty. But American and Arab officials from the region have said in private conversations in recent weeks that they thought the hardest part of the talks would be getting the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to grant enough concessions to the Palestinians to satisfy Saudi and American leaders.
With Israel now saying it was at war with Gaza, the prospect of such concessions looks even dimmer.
A statement on Saturday from Saudi Foreign Ministry emphasized the plight of the Palestinians, saying the kingdom had warned repeatedly “of the dangers of the explosion of the situation as a result of the continued occupation, the deprivation of the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights and the repetition of systemic provocations against its sanctities.”
The ministry also called on countries to “activate a credible peace process that leads to the two-state solution.”
That Saudi perspective clashes directly with views expressed by top Israeli officials even before the new war. The outbreak of violence will no doubt create more distance between the governments. [Continue reading…]