DECEMBER 9, 2022
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Saudi Arabia Halts U.S.-Backed Israel Ties Normalization Amid Escalating Conflict

Saudi Arabia Halts U.S.-Backed Israel Ties Normalization Amid Escalating Conflict

In response to the intensifying conflict between Israel and Hamas, Saudi Arabia has reportedly put the brakes on U.S.-backed plans to normalize ties with Israel, according to two sources familiar with Riyadh's current foreign policy considerations. The move reflects a swift reassessment of Saudi Arabia's priorities as the region grapples with heightened tensions.

The ongoing conflict has prompted Saudi Arabia to engage in dialogue with Iran, further exemplified by a phone call between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. The diplomatic outreach is seen as an effort by Riyadh to prevent a broader escalation of violence across the Middle East.

The sources informed Reuters that there will be a delay in the U.S.-backed talks on normalization with Israel, which was considered a crucial step for Saudi Arabia to secure what it views as the ultimate prize—a U.S. defense pact.

Before the outbreak of hostilities initiated by Iran-backed Hamas on October 7, both Israeli and Saudi leaders had been indicating progress toward a potential deal that could reshape the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, despite being the birthplace of Islam and home to its two holiest sites, had expressed a willingness to pursue a U.S. defense pact even if Israel did not make substantial concessions to the Palestinians in their quest for statehood.

However, the latest conflict has altered this stance, as a strategy that sidelines the Palestinian cause could provoke widespread discontent among Arabs in the region. Arab news outlets have been broadcasting images of Palestinians killed in Israeli retaliatory airstrikes, fueling sentiments against potential normalization without addressing the Palestinian issue.

The first source familiar with Riyadh's perspective suggested that talks would be on hold for the time being. When discussions resume, the source emphasized that the matter of Israeli concessions for the Palestinians would need to be a more prominent priority—an indication that Riyadh has not abandoned the idea of normalization.

As of the time of reporting, the Saudi government has not responded to emailed requests for comments on this matter.

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