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Top Israeli official says country won't block Saudi civil nuclear program

Amid reports that Saudi Arabia is conditioning normalization with Israel on Washington's approval to start a civil nuclear program, a top Israeli official says Israeli support is not out of the question.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Israel's national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said Monday that Israel is not necessarily averse to an agreement that would allow Saudi Arabia to enrich uranium for research purposes. 

"Egypt and the [United Arab] Emirates operate nuclear research centers, and these are not dangerous," he stated in an interview with Israel’s public broadcaster KAN.

Hanegbi addressed reports that Saudi Arabia is conditioning normalization with Israel on the United States helping it create a civil nuclear program, saying that Israel's consent was not needed. "Dozens of countries operate projects with civilian nuclear cores and with nuclear endeavors for energy. This is not something that endangers them nor their neighbors," Hanegbi explained.

Recent reports in the United States and in Israel suggest Saudi Arabia is setting three main conditions for its agreement to a normalization deal. One is a defense treaty between Saudi Arabia and the United States, including a commitment by the Americans to defend Saudi Arabia in case of an Iranian attack and the sale of F-35 fighter jets and advanced missile-defense systems. The second is for Israel to make meaningful concessions toward the Palestinians beyond pledging not to annex West Bank territories. The third is for Washington to facilitate Riyadh's establishment of a civil nuclear program. Reports by the New York Times over the past week indicate that contacts are ongoing for a normalization agreement. Still, President Joe Biden warned over the weekend that such a deal would probably not be reached in the near future. 

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