Top Biden aide argues Israeli-Palestinian peace is possible ‘in near term’

Jake Sullivan accuses Hamas of launching Oct. 7 onslaught to disrupt US efforts on ‘package deal that involved normalization… and a political horizon for the Palestinian people’

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during the Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during the Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday said peace between Israel and the Palestinians along with the expansion of the Abraham Accords was possible in the “near term,” despite the ongoing war in Gaza.

“It is not impractical… The pieces are there to be put together to achieve this outcome; and not years down the road, but in the near term, if all of us pull together and make the wise and bold decisions to choose this course,” Sullivan says during remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Sullivan said the US was actively working to advance Israel’s integration in the region as a tool to address the crisis in Gaza. His remarks came after The Times of Israel reported last week that technical conversations between the US and Saudi Arabia about a potential normalization agreement between Jerusalem and Riyadh have continued amid the Israel-Hamas war.

Three officials said that while the broader interests of the countries involved have not changed since Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, the price of the “significant Palestinian component” of the deal has gone up.

Explaining the Biden administration’s approach before the war, Sullivan said the US felt another round of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians was unlikely to succeed.

“We determined that the best approach was to work toward a package deal that involved normalization between Israel and key Arab states together with meaningful progress and a political horizon for the Palestinian people,” Sullivan said.

“That was our goal before October 7, and it was our progress toward that goal that Hamas sought to destroy on October 7,” he added, while noting that the administration has not given up on its efforts.

This image released by the IDF on January 16, 2024, shows troops of the Commando Brigade operating in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis. (Israel Defense Forces)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was also in Davos, where he said Tuesday that Arab countries were not keen to get involved in the rebuilding of Gaza if the coastal enclave will be “leveled” again in a few years and stressed the importance of Palestinian statehood for any regional settlement.

Speaking to CNBC, Blinken said there was a “new equation” in the Middle East in which Israel’s Arab and Muslim neighbors were prepared to integrate Israel into the region but were equally committed to a pathway to a Palestinian state.

He said both the Arab states and Washington believe that until that issue is addressed, neither Israel nor the region will have peace, stability and security.

“You have to resolve the Palestinian question,” Blinken said. “Arab countries are saying this… ‘Look, we’re not going to get into the business, for example, of rebuilding Gaza only to have it leveled again in a year or five years and then be asked to rebuild it again.’

“You’re in a place right now, where, again, Arab countries, including countries like Saudi Arabia, are prepared to do things in their relationship with Israel they were never prepared to do before. That opens up an entirely different future, a much more secure future,” he said.

“In terms of Israel’s own security, the Arab piece of the equation and the Palestinian peace — that’s the way to true lasting security,” Blinken said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, with his entourage, walks from panel to panel at the Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Speaking in Davos, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said the kingdom could recognize Israel if a comprehensive agreement were reached that included statehood for the Palestinians.

Blinken in his latest trip to the Middle East just a week ago had brought a rough agreement to Israel that its predominantly Muslim neighbors would help rehabilitate Gaza after the war and continue economic integration with Israel, but only if it committed to eventually allowing the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

The war in Gaza was sparked by the shock Hamas-led attack three months ago, when Palestinian terrorists from Gaza stormed into southern Israel and slaughtered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 240 hostages. In response, Israel launched a military offensive in Gaza aimed at toppling Hamas and returning the hostages.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: