US official: Saudis constantly weighing whether to normalize with Israel

A senior US official currently visiting Israel says Saudi Arabia is constantly weighing whether to normalize relations with Israel, arguing that the kingdom’s plans to open itself up to the world would require it to join the so-called Abraham Accords.

In a briefing to Israeli journalists in Jerusalem, US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper refuses to comment on reports about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman yesterday in Saudi Arabia. But he shares some of his impressions of having just been in the country before coming to Israel this week.

“After meetings with my Saudi interlocutors, I can affirm for you that the conversation about Saudi Arabia’s consideration of the Abraham Accords is ongoing. And it’s one that doesn’t just reside in the national-security space,” he says. Riyadh is working on implementing sweeping reforms in the framework of its so-called Vision 2030 plan, Cooper says.

This June 23, 2018, photo shows a general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

“When looking at how to implement the strategic ends of Vision 2030 — to be more present in the community of nations and to bring the community of nations to Saudi Arabia — one has to include the Abraham Accords in that conversation.”

The interest in normalizing ties with Israel is shared by “different types of populations and constituencies across Arab states,” Cooper says. “There are also some interesting generational perspectives,” he goes on, adding that many young people in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have been surprisingly supportive of their respective government’s agreements with the Jewish state.

“There are some people-to-people aspects here that are going above and beyond what ministers probably anticipated. It’s a welcome response but it’s one that is also observed in other capitals.”

— Raphal Ahren