Hailing Israel-Saudi normalization effort, Herzog says success would be ‘historic’

President says that a new relationship based on friendship could be foundation for change in Israel and the entire region

President Isaac Herzog speaks at an event marking the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, in Latrun on September 21, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog speaks at an event marking the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, in Latrun on September 21, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog on Thursday expressed his belief that the US effort to broker a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia will succeed.

“I wholeheartedly welcome the important developments regarding the possibility of a historic agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the president said while speaking at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.

“Saudi Arabia is a very important country, and I believe that a relationship based on partnership and friendship between us can be the foundation for a historic change in the history of the State of Israel and the entire Middle East,” Herzog continued. “This opportunity of course depends on many factors, but I hope and wholeheartedly believe that it will be realized.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Wednesday that “every day we get closer” to Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel, while clarifying that the Palestinian issue is still a “very important” component of the process.

A senior US administration official who briefed reporters after Wednesday’s meeting between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Netanyahu understands the importance of the Palestinian issue in the normalization talks and that he, Biden and bin Salman will have to do “some very hard things” in order to get a deal done.

In his public remarks at the beginning of his meeting with Biden on Wednesday, Netanyahu said that an Israel-Saudi normalization deal “would go a long way first to advance the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, achieve reconciliation between the Islamic world and the Jewish state and advance a genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

A senior Israeli official said afterward that the effort has a 50.1 percent chance of success.

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

The Biden administration has long maintained that its efforts to expand Israel’s integration in the region will not come at the expense of the Palestinians and has argued that Arab countries’ boosted ties with Jerusalem should be leveraged to advance a two-state solution.

The White House also recognizes that it will need major progress toward that end in order to convince enough progressive Democrats to back the normalization effort, which will likely include a major defense pact with Saudi Arabia — a country with a checkered human rights record.

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