Saudi crown prince tells Biden Israel normalization can resume after war

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

US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman agreed to eventually “build on” the negotiations that were underway to normalize ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia before the outbreak of the Gaza war, the White House says in a readout from a phone call the two leaders held earlier today.

Biden and bin Salman “affirmed the importance of working toward a sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians as soon as the crisis subsides, building on the work that was already underway between Saudi Arabia and the United States over recent months,” the White House readout says.

Biden officials have acknowledged that the normalization effort is no longer the most immediate priority for the US and Israel, as they work to respond to the October 7 Hamas onslaught. However, the White House insists that it is still committed to the goal and has suggested that one of the reasons for the Hamas massacre was to try and thwart the effort.

Biden, but more notably Bin Salman, “welcomed ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and called for their immediate release,” according to the readout.

The two leaders also welcomed the recent delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza while recognizing the need for additional assistance.

Biden hailed “the Gulf Cooperation Council’s contribution of $100 million to support these humanitarian efforts, and discussed the disbursement of $100 million from the United States to support the response.”

“The two leaders agreed on pursuing broader diplomatic efforts to maintain stability across the region and prevent the conflict from expanding,” the White House says, adding that Biden affirmed US support for the defense of its allies in the region from terror attacks.

According to the subsequently released Saudi readout, MBS during the conversation called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, rejecting the targeting of civilians.

MBS urged resuming the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Biden thanked him for his efforts to prevent regional escalation, the readout says.

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