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Israel says framework Saudi normalisation deal possible by early 2024

September 21, 2023 at 4:33 pm

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, holds a joint press conference with his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani (not seen) after taking part in the official opening ceremony for Tel Aviv’s embassy in the capital Manama, Bahrein on September 4, 2023 [Ayman Yaqoob/Anadolu Agency]

A framework US-brokered deal for forging relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia could be in place by early next year, the Israeli Foreign Minister said on Thursday, after the three countries signalled progress in the complex negotiations, Reuters reports.

An Israeli-Saudi normalisation would dramatically redraw the Middle East by formally bringing together two major US partners in the face of Iran – a foreign-policy flourish for President Joe Biden as he seeks re-election in late 2024.

Biden voiced optimism about the prospects in talks with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. Separately, Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman said “every day we get closer” to a deal.

But a Rubik’s cube of tie-in issues looms. Riyadh’s quest for a civilian nuclear programme tests US and Israeli policy. Saudi and US calls for the Palestinians to make gains under any deal are unpalatable for Netanyahu’s hard-right government.

“The gaps can be bridged,” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told Israel’s Army Radio. “It will take time. But there is progress.”

I think there is certainly a likelihood that, in the first quarter of 2024, four or five months hence, we will be able to be in at a point where the details (of a deal) are finalised

Such a timeline could enable the Biden administration to get through a review period in the US Congress and Senate and clinch ratification ahead of the November presidential ballot.

READ: Iran: normalisation between Saudi Arabia and Israel is ‘betrayal’ of Palestinians, says Raisi