Israeli official optimistic about prospects for normalization with Saudis after war

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

An Israeli official strikes an optimistic note on the prospects of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia after the war.

“Wise people are sitting in Saudi Arabia and in Israel,” says the official. “It will be possible to continue the process we started before the war afterwards — with the condition that we win.”

According to the White House, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman agreed in a phone call with Biden to eventually “build on” the US-brokered negotiations that had been underway to normalize ties.

The official also says Israel is seeing preliminary signs that the ground operation is pushing Hamas to seek a deal to release hostages.

“We are seeing something, but it’s not ready yet. Beforehand we didn’t see anything,” says the official, who adds that Israel believes the majority of the hostages are alive. “Hamas sees them as an asset.”

On the possibility of a ceasefire, a growing priority for Israel’s allies, the official says that “even if there is a ceasefire in exchange for the release of hostages, it will be temporary and Israel will continue to operate to topple Hamas.”

The official says that Israel does not know how many terrorists the IDF has killed. “I know we’ve killed many but I don’t know how many.”

The official also says that 800,000 Gazans have moved to the southern Gaza Strip from the north.

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