The price must be right for Israel-Saudi normalization

Published date14 September 2023
AuthorMeir Ben-Shabbat
Publication titleGlobes (Rishon LeZion, Israel)
Sullivan's dry and laconic description did not detail the many issues that must be agreed for normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel to be achieved. It is possible that in his description, he was trying to lower expectations and cool the sense of euphoria, which reports on this matter have created in some places. However, President Biden's announcement two days later on the huge infrastructure project to connect South Asia with the Middle East and Europe through ports and railways raised the level of optimism to a new high

The chances of reaching such an agreement have never seemed higher. Each of the three leaders - Joe Biden, Mohammed bin Salman and Benjamin Netanyahu - has very good reasons to want it. The window of opportunity, which is limited to a few months, urges them to speed up discussions and exhaust the areas of flexibility on the issues that are expected to provoke controversy.

The recent positive signals from Saudi Arabia, in hosting Israeli businesspeople at a government conference on cybersecurity, the attitude demonstrated when a plane full of Israelis that encountered a problem on its way from the Seychelles landed in Jeddah, and the messages conveyed to the Palestinians, show the readiness that exists on its part for such a move. It seems now that the question is not whether there will be an agreement, but what price each side will pay for it.

A normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel may not only change the face of the Middle East, but also affect the camps that are forming today as part of the struggle for the new world order. From Israel's point of view, the achievement of such an agreement is a very important goal. It will put an end to 120 years of ideological war waged by the Arab world against the return of the Jews to Zion, and will reduce the dimensions of the conflict between it and the Arab world to the status of a local, Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It will create new regional and international partnerships. It will have weighty security implications and dramatic effects on the economy. Israeli startups and research centers in the fields of water, agriculture, renewable energy, smart transport and cybersecurity will be able to help turn the innovative city of Neom and other giant Saudi projects into global successes. Apart from that, such an agreement would have a religious significance in view of Saudi Arabia's position as the nation in charge of Mecca and Medina - the holy cities of Islam.

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