Possible rapprochement in the Middle East – This is what is needed for an Israel-Saudi deal – News

For months there have been increasing signs that there could be a diplomatic rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Recently, even Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman publicly commented on the negotiations and expressed their confidence. The SRF Middle East correspondents Anita Bünter and Jonas Bischoff provide answers to the most important questions about the possible rapprochement.

Anita Bünter and Jonas Bischoff

Middle East correspondents


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Anita Bünter and Jonas Bischoff are the Middle East correspondents for Swiss television. Anita Bünter was previously the producer of the program “10vor10”. Jonas Bischoff was previously a producer at Radio SRF 4 News.

Why have Israel and Saudi Arabia not maintained diplomatic relations yet?

There are historical reasons why Israel and Saudi Arabia do not maintain diplomatic relations: Saudi Arabia, along with other Arab states, opposed the founding of Israel in 1948. Since then, the country has repeatedly stood up for the Palestinians. Despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations with Israel, there are reports that Israel and Saudi Arabia have long been cooperating on security issues. Both countries view Iran as a regional threat.

Why are the countries getting closer together now?

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to make his kingdom a regional hub for innovation and business. For some time now he has been focusing on expanding diplomatic relations with all camps. A rapprochement with Israel would fit into the concept.

The rapprochement is being mediated by the USA. Washington has already promoted normalization of relations between Israel and Arab states in recent years. In 2020, the so-called “Abraham Accords” brought Israel and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, closer together. A rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia would be another major diplomatic success.

What are the chances that the rapprochement will be successful?

There are signs that rapprochement is possible, particularly due to shared economic and security interests. But there are two big obstacles: Saudi Arabia is demanding concessions to the Palestinians. Israel is unlikely to be willing to meet these demands under its current, right-wing government. According to media reports, Saudi Arabia also wants security guarantees from the USA: Riyadh should demand a defense agreement from Washington, as well as access to US weapons. A civilian nuclear program with its own uranium enrichment is also said to be on the Saudi wish list. It is unclear whether Washington is willing to pay such a price for rapprochement.

Would there also be losers in a rapprochement?

The big losers would probably be the Palestinians. Until now, the Saudis only wanted to establish diplomatic relations with Israel if the Palestinians got their own state. But there are increasing signs that Saudi Arabia could move away from this position. For Riyadh, security guarantees from the USA are more important than an independent Palestinian state. This means that the Palestinians’ last hopes for their own state could be completely dashed in the event of an Israeli-Saudi rapprochement.

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