Blinken: West Bank unrest makes it harder to reach normalization deal with Saudis

File: Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (right) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hold a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, January 30, 2023. (Miriam Shimonovich/Foreign Minstry)
File: Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (right) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hold a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, January 30, 2023. (Miriam Shimonovich/Foreign Minstry)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that unrest in the West Bank, including settlement construction and attacks by settlers on Palestinian villages, makes it much harder for the US to broker a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations event in New York, Blinken says that: “Both Saudi Arabia and Israel of course are interested in the prospect of normalization.”

“It is incredibly challenging, hard, not something that can happen overnight, but it’s also a real prospect and one that we’re working on,” he says.

But he warns that the situation in the West Bank is complicating issues.

“We’ve told our friends and allies in Israel that if there’s a fire burning in their backyard, it’s going to be a lot tougher, if not impossible, to actually both deepen the existing agreements, as well as to expand them to include potentially Saudi Arabia.”

Blinken adds that he has spoken about the issue with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Tuesday.

“It’s also, at least in our judgment as Israel’s closest friend and ally, profoundly not in Israel’s interest for this to happen — both because of the added degree of difficulty that this presents for pursuing normalization agreements, or deepening them, but also because of the practical consequences,” he says.

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