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Analysis

As Netanyahu stalls, can Saudi and US internationalize a peace framework?

The Biden administration is still trying to keep the prospects of Saudi-Israeli normalization alive.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jeddah on March 20, 2024. Secretary of State Blinken, who landed in Jeddah earlier on March 20 on the first leg of a regional tour that was extended to include Israel, met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan before holding talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

RIYADH — As he completed his sixth trip to the region since the onset of the Gaza war, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made it clear in Jeddah on March 20 that the Biden administration is committed to a Palestinian state if there is also a "security guarantee for Israel." His statement — and Saudi Arabia’s emphasis on a path to recognizing the Palestinian state and reaching its own understandings with Washington — opens the door to building an international framework toward those goals, even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defies the White House and insists on invading Rafah. 

In Jeddah, the Saudi ruling elite gave no sign that its plans have changed. They are pursuing elements of a mega strategic deal that will entail normalization with Israel, but Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan stressed earlier this year that a “credible and irreversible path to a Palestinian state” is needed for Riyadh to agree to normalization. In this case, the United States’ insistence on security guarantees for Israel in exchange for support of a Palestinian state is at odds with the Saudi caveat of a “clear and irreversible path.”

How can these impasses be overcome? There is a nexus between the United States, Saudi Arabia, Arab states and other international actors that they can expand upon and from which they can negotiate a multifaceted international effort to support the peace process. Most rational state actors agree with the need for Palestinian statehood and Israeli security. The argument is that it is in Saudi Arabia's and the United States' mutual interest, as the tacit leaders within this crisis, to internationalize this nexus. This in turn would allow both states to utilize their leverage so they do not have to realize the outcome of the two-state solution alone.

The US-Saudi element

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