Saudi Prince MBS Tells Antony Blinken that His Country Will Not Normalize Relations with Israel
During an interview with CNN on July 9, 2024, US President Joe Biden revealed that “we are still far away” from hammering out agreements to normalize Saudi-Israeli relations, set up a Saudi civilian nuclear program, and a US security partnership with the Saudis.
What Biden announced was largely based on his feedback from a June 7 meeting in Jeddah between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
During their meeting, the two public officials spent an hour and forty minutes talking about several issues of mutual interest. However, the primary goal of the meeting was to improve US-Saudi relations, which have hit a rough patch ever since MbS was accused of ordering the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
At this meeting, Blinken demanded that the Saudis normalize relations with Israel and back away from efforts to reach a rapprochement with Syria.
The Cradle reported that its Arab and western diplomatic sources caught wind of Blinken asking Mbs the following: “Why don’t you do with Israel what you did with Iran?”
MbS responded by highlighting three points.
First off, the Saudi crown prince noted that King Salman bin Abdulaziz still opposes an agreement with the Israelis. Secondly, MbS notes that positive communication continues between Saudi and Israeli authorities – for example, the allowance of the passage of civilian aircraft into Saudi airspace and scrapping the prohibition on Israeli players in international sporting events.
However, MbS stressed the following:
But these contacts will not soon lead to a peace agreement and normalization. We remain committed to the Arab Peace Initiative (the 2001 Beirut Summit Initiative), which is to grant the Palestinians an independent State in exchange for a comprehensive peace. Israel has treated the Abraham Accords as an incentive to ignore the Palestinians and undermine the foundations of the peace process with the Palestinians, rather than seeing them as an opportunity to enhance the chances of reaching a lasting peace. The Israeli government is approving more settlement projects, compounding the obstacles to any future solution.
Third, the sources reported that the Saudi crown prince asked Blinken:
Why should we give you an agreement with Israel? For what? You refuse our having a peaceful nuclear project. Since your administration came to power, you have revoked the Houthi designation as a terrorist organization. You are demanding a reduction in the price of oil to the detriment of our interests. So why do you expect us to give you a peace agreement with Israel? We are ready to go even beyond normalization with Israel, and achieve regional integration for Tel Aviv, but only if it serves the interests of our country.
On Syria, MbS emphasized two points in his talk with Blinken. The first was Saudi Arabia’s security interests. He called attention to the illegal flow of drugs to the kingdom as a threat to its subjects:
This is one of our priorities. We know as well as you that the number one source of Captagon is Syrian territory. You have issued a special law to combat the export of Captagon from Syria, and you have considered that the smuggling of this drug harms the interests of the United States. We believe that a solution to this crisis is not possible without communication and coordination with the Syrian government. In this sense, we see it as in our interest to improve our relationship with the Syrian government.
MbS’ second point touched on future Saudi investments in Syria, which American authorities seek to prevent in order to maintain its economic war on the country. The Cradle’s diplomatic sources claimed that Blinken was told the following:
“The war that was aimed at toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is over. You know our orientation to ensure stability throughout the region. We are ready to invest in Syria to prove to the Syrian people who secure their interests and the prosperity of their country. This is beneficial to regional stability, as it will weaken non-Arab forces in Syria.”
Overall, the era of multipolarity is giving US policymakers a much needed reality check. They simply can’t bully nations like they could in the past. With countries having more options to choose from such as China and Russia, the US is not the only big name in town.
On top of that, the US’s reckless foreign policy behavior has made countries hesitant to align with it. Instead, they’ll turn to countries with more level-headed approaches to foreign policy.
Let’s hope that US decision-makers can finally grasp these new realities of multipolarity and adjust their policies accordingly.