Israel’s Gaza Onslaught Upsets US Plan For The Middle East

No normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia despite American attempts to clench a deal

salman netanyahu

Analysts argue the Al Aqsa Flood, the entry of Hamas fighters into Israel proper, and the subsequent war this created on the Gaza Strip, now in its sixth month, has upset American and Israeli strategic plans for the region.

Such plans hinged on the normalization of relations between Israeli and the Arab world. These were already put in motion with the signing of the Abraham Accords in late 2020 when the UAE and Bahrain signed normalization treaties with Israel establishing the first-ever diplomatic relations between these countries. Soon after Morocco and Sudan signed diplomatic protocols with Israel.

These were seen as major diplomatic breakthroughs in the dying days of the Trump administration and were to be followed through by the incoming administration of Joe Biden who won the US presidential election. Biden was to continue the work of his predecessor and establish what was then termed a new Middle East were Israel would become part of a new regional order.

After the four Arab countries, the big breakthrough was Saudi Arabia with Biden officials courting Riyadh over establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. This is a point the new Biden administration stressed on as it entered the White House from the beginning of 2021 onwards. Officials including President Joe Biden himself who visited Israel and Saudi Arabia in July 2022, sought to pressure the Saudi government into signing a normalization deal with Israel and establishing relations.

But the Saudis have always said they wouldn’t normalize until the Palestinian issue that included establishing an independent state would be solved. However, the Americans and Israelis tended to downplay that issue. Israel wanted first to establish relations with the Arab world, with Riyadh by next, and then the Palestinian issue would come second.

Many analysts saw this as a non-starter, establishing relations with Saudi Arabia would frustrate the establishment of an independent Palestinians state. However, the Americans, and Israelis who tried to make a political capital of the fact, they saw Arab relations with Israel as a foregone conclusion and a matter of time and worked on that assumption.

The Americans were working on bringing this about, in fact there was much talk in the weeks and months prior to 7 October, 2023, the White House was on the verge of reaching a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel through active US diplomatic channels and sojourns to Riyadh as underlined by the visits of the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in August of that year, and preceded by the visit of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in the prior month of June.

Was Saudi Arabia on the verge of reaching a “lone” deal with Israel or is this wishful thinking on the part of Washington and Tel Aviv? Thus, whatever was the political playground it was put on hold by the events of 7th October in which 1200 Israelis were killed. Today, establishing such relations between the two countries have become doubly hard because of the continuing Israeli war on Gaza, termed as genocide and ethnic cleansing in which over 32,000 people have been killed, 75,000 people injured and 1.9 million of the Gaza population out of 2.2 million displaced.

But Washington, despite the fact it is a major conspirator in this war because of providing weapons to Israel through its air and sea bridges, is not giving up on its normalization efforts with Saudi. Jake Sullivan was due to make a visit to Riyadh this week to revive such talks but the latest news points out it has been cancelled at the last minute because of the ill health of the National Security Advisor.

However, the Americans will keep trying despite the fact Biden himself was snubbed when he made his marked visit to Jeddah in 2022. Washington doesn’t understand that Saudi Arabia will not take the plunge of normalization unless there is progress on the Palestinian side.

As well, Washington will keep trying because they want to reshape the Middle East. Will the idea may have failed for the time-being but they wanted, still do, to establish a NATO-like alliance to confront Iran and one that would be led by Israel.

But even here, they may have long slipped because of the present Saudi-Iran détente in which they have re-established diplomatic relations with Riyadh fully knowing that Tehran takes a strong anti-Israeli stance.

Despite the current political chitchat Israel may have put a final nail in the coffin of these two developments and said goodbye to current strategic thinking in the region. The destruction of Gaza by Israel who are insisting on the continuation of their murderous war is clearly upsetting American and western plans for the region. Its back to the drawing boards again.

Marwan Asmar is a writer from Amman, Jordan.    

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