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28 Apr, 2024 21:36

US senator wants Biden to sweeten Saudi-Israel deal

Lindsey Graham has urged the White House to help normalize relations between Riyadh and West Jerusalem
US senator wants Biden to sweeten Saudi-Israel deal

US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) has called for the administration of President Joe Biden to push through an agreement establishing diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel to help lay the groundwork for a peace deal with the Palestinians.

The long-sought normalization of relations between Riyadh and West Jerusalem hinges at least partly on Saudi Arabia’s desire for a military pact with the US, Graham said on Sunday in a CNN interview. The senator, who has made multiple visits to Saudi Arabia for meetings with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), said he has spoken about the issue with Biden and top administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

“Saudi Arabia wants a mutual-defense agreement with the United States,” Graham said. “We’ve been working on this for weeks. To Tony and Jake, get on with closing the deal on the treaty. Without the treaty, MBS cannot recognize Israel, and part of the deal will be coming up with a solution to the Palestinian problem.”

Biden has claimed that his progress on brokering a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel may have motivated last October’s surprise attacks against Israel by Hamas, which triggered the latest war in Gaza. The war between Iran-backed Hamas and Israel, which has reportedly killed more than 34,000 people in the Palestinian enclave, derailed West Jerusalem’s talks with Riyadh.

Graham said the crisis in Gaza cannot be resolved without first completing an Israeli-Saudi agreement. “If we can get a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel, it ends the Arab-Israeli conflict, it isolates the Iranians, it creates some hope for the Palestinians, it provides security in a real way to Israel,” the lawmaker argued.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia claims to have 7% of the world’s uranium reserves. Graham said plans call for the US to control enrichment of those reserves as part of the proposal for Riyadh to recognize the state of Israel. Such an agreement would build on the Abraham Accords, under which Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates established diplomatic ties with Israel. Sudan and Morocco later signed onto the accords.

“I’d like to help President Biden get this done,” Graham said. “Without this deal, there is no solution to the Palestinian problem. Without this deal, everything gets worse. So, let’s get the deal done. We’re running out of time.”

The administration of Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, brokered the Abraham Accords. Asked whether Trump might try to undermine an Israeli-Saudi deal as he runs against Biden in this year’s election, Graham said the former president “wants the killing to end.” He added, “We’re going to have an election here in November, but can we save some lives before November?”

Blinken, who is traveling to Saudi Arabia this week, told CNN on Friday that it could be possible to establish a framework for a two-state solution in Israel and normalization of relations with Riyadh.