Saudi–Israeli normalisation may inflame another regional nuclear dispute
    Transformational peace or long-term conflict?

    ANALYTICS  02 October 2023 - 18:00

    Fuad Shahbazov

    On September 29, the Saudi Arabian government issued a statement that it will not hold up a peace deal even if Israel does not offer major concessions to Palestinians in their bid for statehood. 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.

    However, in its earlier statements, the Saudi Kingdom reiterated that the normalisation with Israel depends on a breakthrough with the Palestinians. Left mostly unsaid is that a full peace with Israel also depends on a breakthrough with Iran, above and beyond the China-brokered Iran-Saudi rapprochement achieved earlier this year.

    Among the top supporters of the potential peace deal is the US, Saudi Arabia's and Israel's leading security partner. The Biden administration is keen to ink a new agreement between Tel Aviv and Riyadh before the upcoming presidential elections in the US, though the recent diplomatic rifts with Riyadh suggest that it will be an arduous process.

    The Americans are long thought to have been pushing for a landmark pact to normalise Israel-Saudi ties. Moreover, given the scope for a historic realignment of ties in the Middle East, there is continuing speculation over the framework for any deal, with American shuttle diplomacy picking up again after trips by officials to Riyadh, Amman and Tel Aviv throughout 2023.

    For the US, this would be seen as a major foreign policy win, advancing regional integration by building on the Abraham Accords with the most sought-after player, reinjecting momentum, or minimally focus, on a political horizon for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and all while creating opportunity to push back on China's rising influence in the region. For Israel's part, normalisation with the Saudis would bring untapped economic benefits and fundamentally reshape its place in the region and potentially broader Islamic world.

    Amid the ongoing diplomatic normalisation talks, Riyadh seeks more concessions from Israel in exchange for dropping demands and concerns regarding the Palestinian issue. Saudi Arabia has long been keen to develop its peaceful nuclear program, seeking Israel's support and guarantees that it will not interfere.

    Therefore, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been exerting heavy pressure on Israel's Atomic Energy Commission, especially its director, retired Brig. Gen. Moshe Edri, to support the formulated plan between Washington and Riyadh. Also, Netanyahu has tasked Edri and Mossad director David Barnea with discussing its possible approval with their American counterparts.

    Riyadh’s bid for nuclear power, including its own uranium enrichment, is not just about developing a new alternative energy source. Iran is at the core of the Saudi calculus. If Iran gets the bomb, then Saudi Arabia would have to get one. Consequently, despite Riyadh-Tehran normalisation a few months ago, the general concerns and questions between the two regional rivals are yet to be adequately addressed.

    Iran's missile capabilities are still critical and pose a real threat to the regional monarchies in the Gulf. Iran is now embracing the rapprochement with Saudi Arabia in its media and policy statements, but the kingdom wants more action to complement the words.

    Nevertheless, many analysts argue that enriching uranium for civil nuclear power reactors provides the know-how and means to convert the project into a military nuclear program. Considering the benefits of the normalisation with Saudi Arabia, the Israeli government is ready to turn a blind eye to Riyadh’s uranium enrichment. Previously, PM Netanyahu would be the first to oppose such an agreement, referring to the possibility of converting it to a military nuclear program.

    Another sign of the vital importance of the normalisation with Riyadh for Israel is the main opposition forces led by Bennie Gantz's support to Netanyahu's decision to move forward with the nuclear deal option with Saudi Arabia. Moreover, non-governmental think tanks in Israel issued surprise papers expressing support for such an alliance, reversing previous objections to any deal tying Israel’s hands by requiring advance notice of its plans.

    The Biden administration is going big in the Middle East with Saudi-Israel normalisation and some type of nuclear deal with Iran. After a scratchy start in its relations with Saudi Arabia, US President Joe Biden came to realise that going big — such as Israel-Saudi normalisation, support for a two-state solution, ending the war in Yemen, and deterring Iran — requires a close partnership with the kingdom; there's no workaround.


    Subscribe to our Telegram channel

Read also

Amid domestic turmoil, Sargsyan dreams of taking the helm of Armenia again Does Armenian society learn from its mistakes?

28 November 2023 - 16:41

The stalling of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the secret plans of power players Analysis by Mikhail Shereshevskiy

28 November 2023 - 11:49

Despite Armenia's drift toward West, it's still Russia's backdoor to circumvent sanctions Empty rhetoric to cover an itch for money

28 November 2023 - 10:27

Western pressure is not a hindrance for Israel Review by Shereshevsky

27 November 2023 - 13:55

Irresponsibility and futility of US policy in the Caucasus Imperialist deadlock

27 November 2023 - 15:34

EU gaining foothold in Armenia But neglects its security

26 November 2023 - 12:49
Latest news

    European court grants countries right to ban religious symbols in public workplaces

    29 November 2023 - 05:10

    How Hamas built a force to attack Israel on October 7

    29 November 2023 - 04:23

    Trapped Indian construction workers get rescued from collapsed tunnel following 17 days ordeal

    29 November 2023 - 03:23

    Virgin airlines completes world's first transatlantic flight powered by cooking oil

    29 November 2023 - 02:25

    US, UK publish guidance for secure-by-design AI

    29 November 2023 - 01:03

    American, European populism aren’t the same

    29 November 2023 - 00:01

    False choice between Palestinian, Jewish liberation

    An analysis by Project Syndicate

    28 November 2023 - 22:58

    US military to send flights carrying Gazan aid to Egypt amid extended truce

    28 November 2023 - 21:57

    Sale of 200 Israel’s Merkava Mk3 tanks to Morocco ‘blocked’

    28 November 2023 - 21:03

    Azerbaijan proposes to optimise prices, conditions for transporting along Middle Corridor

    28 November 2023 - 20:59

    Azerbaijan hands over three fraudsters to Uzbekistan

    28 November 2023 - 20:58

    Berkshire: UK drone superhighway due to complete by 2024

    28 November 2023 - 20:53

    Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan discuss electricity export


    28 November 2023 - 20:49

    Campaign against British tourists beginning to feel personal

    28 November 2023 - 20:44

    Criminal case against Karabakh separatist general goes to court

    28 November 2023 - 20:38

    Ukraine’s long war - how to win it

    28 November 2023 - 20:35

    Tesla wins court backing in suit over blocked license plates in Sweden

    28 November 2023 - 20:29

    Import volume from China to Russia up by 1.5 times

    28 November 2023 - 20:23

    India to step up coking coal shipments from Russia

    28 November 2023 - 20:19

    Iran navy can help sea-based economy: Leader

    28 November 2023 - 20:15

    COP28: Number of children facing hunger due to weather extremes doubles in 2022

    28 November 2023 - 20:09

    European Court of Human Rights admits Armenia’s dishonesty - Azerbaijan

    28 November 2023 - 20:06

    New FREMM with ASuW/ASW capabilities for Italian Navy

    28 November 2023 - 20:03

    £121 million investment into future submarines supports 250 jobs

    28 November 2023 - 19:57

    Azerbaijan to have Khankendi football club

    28 November 2023 - 19:49

    OPEC+’s crucial production cut verdict to be turning point for oil prices

    28 November 2023 - 19:39

    Azerbaijani parliament hits back at remarks by Armenian Speaker

    28 November 2023 - 19:35

    B-21 ‘downed’ by 6 Mach speed missile coming from near space

    28 November 2023 - 19:31

    Turkish deputy foreign minister discusses South Caucasus with EU envoy

    28 November 2023 - 19:21

    TechScape: Why billions in sanctions can’t bring down Binance

    28 November 2023 - 19:14

    CIA director pushes big hostage deal in secret meeting with Mossad chief

    The Washington Post

    28 November 2023 - 19:07

    Russian FM to visit first NATO country since Ukraine invasion

    28 November 2023 - 19:00

    Fitch Solutions: Economic growth to reach 3.1% in Azerbaijan in 2024

    28 November 2023 - 18:48

    Pundit: Armenia to face same fate as Ukraine, Georgia

    28 November 2023 - 18:36

    US allocates non-refundable aid for Ukraine's energy sector

    28 November 2023 - 18:29

    Baltic FMs to boycott OSCE meeting

    Due to Lavrov

    28 November 2023 - 18:24

    Deminers find explosive devices even in hospitals in Karabakh

    ANAMA statement

    28 November 2023 - 18:17

    British intelligence confirms advance of Russian troops near Avdiivka

    28 November 2023 - 18:12

    NUSRET-2023 naval exercises kick off in Türkiye

    28 November 2023 - 18:06

    SOCAR's representative office opens in Ashgabat

    28 November 2023 - 18:01

All news