The United States says that a defense agreement with Saudi Arabia is not possible without an Israeli deal

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US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the Biden administration will not sign a defense agreement with Saudi Arabia if the Kingdom and Israel do not agree to normalize relations, stressing that “you cannot separate one piece from the other.”

In an interview at the FT Weekend Festival on Saturday, Sullivan denied recent suggestions that a bilateral agreement was being considered between the Biden administration and the kingdom if Israel refused to make concessions to the Palestinians.

The Biden administration is pushing for a tripartite agreement to encourage Riyadh to formalize diplomatic relations with Israel as part of plans to ensure sustainable peace in the Middle East after the October 7 Hamas attack that led to a nearly seven-month war in Gaza. It hopes to use the prospect of the kingdom — long the biggest prize for Israel — and other Muslim countries normalizing relations to convince Israel to agree to make major concessions to the Palestinians.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected any moves toward a two-state solution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The integrated vision is a bilateral understanding between the United States and Saudi Arabia accompanied by normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, in addition to meaningful steps on behalf of the Palestinian people,” Sullivan said. “It all has to come together… You can’t separate one piece from the other.

Sullivan said President Joe Biden intends to publicly reveal “the path.”[to]. . . A more peaceful region.”

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“I expect in the coming months you will hear from the president and others of us more about . . . a path that we believe can lead to a safer Israel and a more peaceful region,” Sullivan said.

He added: “All we can do is come up with what we think is logical. [and] Try to convince as many countries in the region of that and then present it, and it will ultimately be up to the Israeli leadership, and frankly, the Israeli people can ultimately decide whether this is the path they want to follow or not.

The Biden administration was moving towards reaching an agreement requiring Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel before October 7, which would have led to Washington agreeing to a defense agreement with Riyadh and supporting its civilian nuclear ambitions in exchange for Israel making concessions to the Palestinians.

The Hamas attack and Israel’s retaliatory attack in Gaza upended that process, but the United States and Saudi Arabia continued to discuss a potential deal as part of broader post-war plans to secure peace in the region.

But Saudi Arabia has made clear that it will ask Israel to make much greater concessions to the Palestinians after October 7, and insisted that it will need to see “irreversible steps” towards the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Some analysts believe that media reports this week that the United States and Saudi Arabia are considering moving forward with a bilateral agreement if Israel refuses to take concrete steps toward establishing a Palestinian state were intended to pressure Netanyahu’s government.

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Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said this week that Riyadh and Washington were “very close” to a bilateral agreement on the US element of the deal, but reiterated that “there must also be a real path to a “credible and irreversible” Palestinian state. .

However, Netanyahu, who faces intense pressure from far-right members of his ruling coalition not to make any concessions to the Palestinians, boasts that he has succeeded for years in thwarting any progress towards a two-state solution.

Sullivan was speaking while CIA Director Bill Burns was in Cairo, where mediators were seeking to persuade Hamas to accept a proposal to reach an agreement that would lead to a ceasefire and the release of hostages held in Gaza. The mediators hope to reach a temporary halt to the fighting for six weeks, which can then be used to negotiate a permanent ceasefire.

US officials praised Israel for making concessions on the terms of the agreement, but Netanyahu still insisted that he would launch an attack on Rafah, a city in southern Gaza, where more than a million people have sought safe haven.

Arab countries have been discussing for months with Washington their vision for the post-war plan, which includes the United States and other Western powers recognizing a Palestinian state, supporting its full membership in the United Nations, and reforming the Palestinian leadership that runs Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

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