MBS Backtracked on Normalization With Israel After Biden Win, Report Says

In a bid to strengthen ties with the United States, the Saudi crown prince seeks to reach a peace deal with Israel after Biden takes office, the Wall Street Journal reports

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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Osaka, Japan June 29, 2019 and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem February 9, 2020.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Osaka, Japan June 29, 2019 and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem February 9, 2020. Credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS
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Haaretz

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who reportedly met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week, has reversed his decision on normalizing ties with Israel after U.S. President Donald Trump lost the November 3 election to Joe Biden, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing official American and Saudi sources.

On Monday, Israeli sources said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Saudi Arabia and met the crown prince and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen also attended the meeting, which took place in the city of Neom, according to the sources. The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment on the matter. The flight was seen on flight-tracking websites.

Senior Saudi adviser later confirmed the Netanyahu-MBS meeting, but said no agreements had been reached, the Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the report, Saudi advisers said that MBS, who is determined to establish ties with the Biden administration, is currently reluctant to reach a normalization deal with Israel, and instead prefers to use the signing of a possible peace accord as a means to strengthen Saudi Arabia's ties with the president-elect in the future.

The advisers added that, establishing ties with Israel under Biden, who has taken a tough stance on Saudi Arabia’s human-rights record, may help the Saudis in Washington. An official U.S. source told the Wall Street Journal that "Saudi Arabia is trying to figure out how best to use this to repair its image in Washington and generate goodwill with Biden and Congress.”

However, the American sources noted that chances to reach a peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia before Trump leaves the White House on January 20 are slim, but not impossible. According to Saudi advisers, Riyadh is currently not interested to engage in peace talks with Israel, a matter that has been stirring much controversy in the Arab world.

The Saudi sources said that MBS had other considerations prompting his decision not to normalize ties with Israel at the moment. The crown prince and his father, 84-year-old King Salman, are still divided over how to address the issue of the Palestinians who are seeking their own state. Saudi royal advisers said the king was aware of his son’s talks with Israel but that his poor health prevented him from grasping the full extent of the discussions.

Two months ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that while MBS is supporting normalization with Israel and seeks business cooperation with it, his father is backing the boycott of Israel by Arab countries and supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud touched upon the recent normalization deals in an interview to Reuters, stating that Saudi Arabia has "supported normalization with Israel for a long time, but one very important thing must happen first: a permanent and full peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians."

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