ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

search
US 'recommits' to expanding Abraham Accords on 3rd anniversary

Blinken weighs October trip to Middle East, as US maintains normalization push

US top diplomat’s trip would include stops in Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia, but has not yet been finalized, Israeli officials tell ToI

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jeddah on June 7, 2023. (Amer Hilabi/Pool Photo via AP)
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jeddah on June 7, 2023. (Amer Hilabi/Pool Photo via AP)

US President Joe Biden’s administration has informed Jerusalem that Secretary of State Antony Blinken may travel to the Middle East next month, as Washington maintains its diplomatic efforts to broker a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, two Israeli officials told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.

Blinken’s visit would include stops in Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia, but the trip has not yet been finalized, the two officials said. The State Department declined to comment.

Blinken’s State Department also issued a statement Thursday marking the the third anniversary of the signing of the historic Abraham Accords, calling it “transformational” for the US allies involved.

“On this anniversary we recommit ourselves to the goal of expanding and deepening opportunities for integration represented by the Accords. The United States remains steadfast in its support for a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous Middle East,” the statement said. Subsequent partnerships such as the Negev Forum and I2U2 partnership of India, Israel, the UAE and the US strengthen shared capabilities and foster the collaboration necessary to meet today’s pressing challenges and opportunities.”

The secretary of state was last in Israel and the West Bank in January, and he used that trip to become one of the first senior US officials to express concern over the judicial overhaul unveiled a short while earlier by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Blinken was in Riyadh more recently, using that trip in June to discuss a potential normalization agreement with Saudi leaders, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made a follow-up trip in July, and the White House’s Middle East czar Brett Mcgurk led a delegation to Riyadh last week.

While talks have intensified, Biden officials have sought to taper expectations, with Sullivan saying last week that there’s still a lot of work to do before a deal can be signed.

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan, right, escorts US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, as they arrive for a meeting with GCC Ministers at the GCC Secretariat in Riyadh on June 7, 2023. (Ahmed Yosri/Pool/AFP)

Blinken held phone calls with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas within hours of one another last week, discussing the potential normalization deal in both conversations.

The secretary said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has conveyed to the United States that advancing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a critical component of a potential normalization deal that Washington is brokering between Riyadh and Jerusalem.

Saudi leaders also assured a delegation visiting from Ramallah last week that Riyadh “will not abandon” the Palestinian cause as it engages in negotiations with the United States about a potential normalization agreement with Israel, a US official and an Arab official told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.

The message was passed along in multiple meetings between the Palestinian Authority delegation and senior Saudi officials, including Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan, the officials said.

In exchange for normalizing ties with Israel, Saudi Arabia is asking for a major defense pact with the US, major arms deals and US cooperation in establishing a civilian nuclear program on Saudi soil. Washington, in turn, is looking for Riyadh to pair down its economic and military dealings with China and Russia.

In order to shore up support for the deal among congressional Democrats and the pro-Palestinian public in Saudi Arabia and the broader Muslim world, Israel will likely be asked to make significant concessions to the Palestinians that would advance a two-state solution — a pill that will be difficult for Netanyahu’s hardline government to swallow.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
image
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure: example@domain.com
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.