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

How will the Washington summit shape NATO's future? Reforms and strategic decisions

12 July 2024 - 16:30

PM declares prioritization of real Armenia over historical myths More actions - less words

12 July 2024 - 15:30

Strategic move by Khamenei in the face of rising unrest Masoud Pezeshkian’s presidential win

12 July 2024 - 16:19

Supporting Ukraine while eyes are on China Washington Summit unveils NATO’s dual focus

12 July 2024 - 15:17

Reevaluating Azerbaijani-Ukrainian relations A complex landscape

12 July 2024 - 13:00

Why is Georgia risking its relationship with the EU? From EU aspirations to political turmoil

11 July 2024 - 17:58
Latest news

    Economic slowdown threatens job market stability in US

    As unemployment rate creeps up

    12 July 2024 - 23:02

    Turkish soldier killed in northern Iraq

    During Pençe-Kilit operation

    12 July 2024 - 21:19

    Ukraine's F-16 plans hampered by language barriers

    Runway shortages, logistical challenges

    12 July 2024 - 21:07

    Falcon 9 fails to deliver Starlink satellites to target orbit

    Due to engine malfunction

    12 July 2024 - 20:53

    COP29 team meets with environment ministers in Budapest

    12 July 2024 - 20:39

    Turkish special forces continue operations against PKK in northern Iraq


    12 July 2024 - 20:39

    Military training aircraft crashes in Poland

    Killing pilot

    12 July 2024 - 20:26

    Azerbaijan, Hungary explore shared climate goals

    12 July 2024 - 20:13

    Russian Foreign Ministry slams US-Armenia military exercise

    12 July 2024 - 19:59

    Russia vows response to South Korea's shift in Ukraine policy

    12 July 2024 - 19:45

    Iran’s Supreme Court overturns rapper’s death sentence

    But new charges loom

    12 July 2024 - 19:31

    US, South Korea sign landmark nuclear deterrence agreement

    12 July 2024 - 19:19

    Iran's expanding naval strategy and US countermeasures

    Caliber.Az on YouTube

    12 July 2024 - 19:11

    Sweden demands review of Hungary's EU Council role after controversial visits

    12 July 2024 - 19:07

    Justice Department disrupts Russian "bot farm" spreading propaganda in US

    12 July 2024 - 18:56

    EU officials critique Zelenskyy's persistent calls for increased aid to Ukraine

    12 July 2024 - 18:44

    China imposes sanctions on US military firms over arms sales to Taiwan

    12 July 2024 - 18:32

    Germany stands firm against Russia following reported plot to assassinate Rheinmetall CEO

    Government declares

    12 July 2024 - 18:20

    Israel insists on retaining Philadelphia Corridor amid hostage negotiations

    12 July 2024 - 18:07

    Superjet-100 crash claims lives of pilots during test flight in Moscow region

    12 July 2024 - 17:55

    Armenian, Georgian defence ministers ink cooperation plan

    12 July 2024 - 17:42

    Official: Armenia ready for peace treaty

    12 July 2024 - 17:30

    US leader condemns Putin as “murderous madman on march”

    12 July 2024 - 17:18

    UK intelligence reports surge in Russian Army losses in Ukraine

    12 July 2024 - 17:07

    Azerbaijan initiates $500 million fund for "green projects" ahead of COP29

    12 July 2024 - 16:55

    Tatneft to partner with SOCAR in development of historic Azerbaijani oil field

    12 July 2024 - 16:43

    How will the Washington summit shape NATO's future?

    Reforms and strategic decisions

    12 July 2024 - 16:30

    Strategic move by Khamenei in the face of rising unrest

    Masoud Pezeshkian’s presidential win

    12 July 2024 - 16:19

    Kremlin: No plans to restrict YouTube access in Russia

    12 July 2024 - 16:07

    President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev completes state visit to Pakistan

    12 July 2024 - 15:56

    UK faces major cyber threats from Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran

    Cyber security chief says

    12 July 2024 - 15:55

    Baku, Astana, and Tashkent set to sign green energy partnership agreement

    12 July 2024 - 15:43

    Russian president’s special envoy to visit Azerbaijan

    Ahead of COP29

    12 July 2024 - 15:31

    PM declares prioritization of real Armenia over historical myths

    More actions - less words

    12 July 2024 - 15:30

    France and Corsica have no common destiny

    "The Island of Beauty" breaks free

    12 July 2024 - 15:19

    Supporting Ukraine while eyes are on China

    Washington Summit unveils NATO’s dual focus

    12 July 2024 - 15:17

    UN to showcase advanced clean energy projects at COP29 in Baku

    12 July 2024 - 15:03

    Palestinian Resistance continue fierce clashes with Israeli Army in Gaza

    12 July 2024 - 14:50

    Azerbaijani Agriculture Minister invites Hungarian counterpart for official visit

    12 July 2024 - 14:36

    Azerbaijan announces verdict for offender accused of Khojaly genocide


    12 July 2024 - 14:27

All news