WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump predicted Friday that Saudi Arabia would soon forge ties with Israel after brokering an agreement for Sudan to normalize ties with the Jewish state.
Speaking to reporters as he held a three-way phone conversation with the prime ministers of Israel and Sudan, Trump said at least another five Arab nations wanted to join the diplomatic bandwagon, which saw the inking of similar agreements involving Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates last month.
“We have at least five that want to come in,” Trump told reporters in the White House.
“We expect Saudi Arabia will be one of those countries,” he added, as he praised the country’s “highly respected” rulers King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“We will be signing many nations over the next coming weeks and months, including some very big ones. It’s very exciting, actually. It’s peace in the Middle East without bloodshed,” said Trump. “And the Palestinians, by the way, if you ask about the Palestinians, they’re wanting to do something. They have never seen anything like this. They’re wanting to do something. I’m sure that will get done too.”
Although Trump did not mention any other countries, Oman and Mauritania are among the other countries in the region that have been tipped to normalize ties.
Before the recent accords between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan had been the only Arab nations to have a formal peace deal with the Jewish state.
Trump announced the agreement between Israel and Sudan’s year-old civilian-backed government moments after he formally moved to end Khartoum’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Trump’s comments come a day after a senior Israeli defense official also predicted the Saudis were close.
“Soon Sudan and later Saudi Arabia will come out of the closet,” the official, who spoke to reporters as Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited America, was quoted saying by Hebrew media, without further elaborating.
Saudi leaders have publicly ruled out forging ties with Israel before a Palestinian state is created, even as they have welcomed the normalization deals between the Jewish state and Gulf Arab states signed in Washington last month.
Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo encouraged Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel.
“We hope Saudi Arabia will consider normalizing its relationships as well. We want to thank them for the assistance they’ve had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far,” said Pompeo, while hosting Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in Washington.
When the White House announced in August that the United Arab Emirates and Israel had agreed to establish full diplomatic ties — a move matched by Bahrain weeks later — Saudi Arabia refrained from criticizing the deal or hosting summits condemning the decision, despite Palestinian requests to do so. The Palestinians have slammed the agreements as a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian cause,” but government-controlled Saudi media hailed them as historic and good for regional peace.
The kingdom also approved the use of Saudi airspace for Israeli flights to the UAE, a decision announced the day after Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh. Kushner has been pushing Arab states to normalize ties with Israel and has said that the Jewish state could eventually enjoy fully normalized relations with Saudi Arabia.
Covert ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia are believed to have been growing in recent years. The shift in policy has reportedly been led by the crown prince, who sees Israel as a strategic partner in the fight against Iranian influence in the region.
Some Saudi officials have also stepped up criticism of the Palestinians.
In a recent interview, the former Saudi ambassador to the US and former intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan called Palestinian leaders “failures” who squandered opportunities for peace over decades.
“The Palestinian cause is a just cause, but its advocates are failures. The Israeli cause is unjust, but its advocates are successful. That sums up the events of the last 70 or 75 years,” bin Sultan said.