Reuters: US-Saudi defence pact tied to Israel deal
    Palestinian demands put aside

    WORLD  30 September 2023 - 12:35

    Saudi Arabia is determined to secure a military pact requiring the United States to defend the kingdom in return for opening ties with Israel and will not hold up a deal even if Israel does not offer major concessions to Palestinians in their bid for statehood, three regional sources familiar with the talks said.
     
    A pact might fall short of the cast-iron, NATO-style defence guarantees the kingdom initially sought when the issue was first discussed between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Joe Biden during the US president's visit to Saudi Arabia in July 2022, Reuters reports.
     
    Instead, a US source said it could look like treaties Washington has with Asian states or, if that would not win US Congress approval, it could be similar to a US agreement with Bahrain, where the US Navy Fifth Fleet is based. Such an agreement would not need congressional backing.
     
    Washington could also sweeten any deal by designating Saudi Arabia a Major Non-NATO Ally, a status already given to Israel, the US source said.
     
    But all the sources said Saudi Arabia would not settle for less than binding assurances of US protection if it faced attack, such as the Sept. 14, 2019 missile strikes on its oil sites that rattled world markets. Riyadh and Washington blamed Iran, the kingdom's regional rival, although Tehran denied having a role.

    Agreements giving the world's biggest oil exporter US protection in return for normalisation with Israel would reshape the Middle East by bringing together two longtime foes and binding Riyadh to Washington after China's inroads in the region. For Biden, it would be a diplomatic victory to vaunt before the 2024 US election.
     
    The Palestinians could get some Israeli restrictions eased but such moves would fall short of their aspirations for a state. As with other Arab-Israeli deals forged over the decades, the Palestinian core demand for statehood would take a back seat, the three regional sources familiar with the talks said.
     
    "The normalisation will be between Israel and Saudi Arabia. If the Palestinians oppose it the kingdom will continue in its path," said one of the regional sources. "Saudi Arabia supports a peace plan for the Palestinians, but this time it wanted something for Saudi Arabia, not just for the Palestinians."
     
    The Saudi government and the US State Department did not respond to emailed questions about this article.

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