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Khamenei pushes back on Israel-Saudi normalization

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(JNS)  Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke out on Wednesday against a renewed push towards normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, according to the AFP news agency.

“Some people think that by forcing neighboring countries to normalize their ties [with Israel] the problem will be solved. They are wrong,” the Iranian leader said.

 

Khamenei’s statement comes a day after reports that the Biden administration has renewed efforts to bring about a peace deal between the Saudi kingdom and the Jewish state as part of a broader push to bring about a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The proposed normalization agreement would include a security pact with the United States, civilian nuclear assistance and diplomatic recognition of Israel—a transformative move for a region that long ostracized the Jewish state.

Recognition, though, would be contingent on Israel committing to a concrete plan, with a deadline, for the creation of a Palestinian state, something Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far rejected.

With an eye on the U.S. political calendar, the Saudis want to move in the next couple of weeks, hoping to generate bipartisan support in the Senate before the November election. The New York Times reports that if Trump reclaims the presidency, the chances of Democrats in the Senate voting for a normalization deal could vanish.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel from Riyadh this week, where he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman “to discuss efforts to achieve lasting peace and security through greater integration in the Middle East.”

Speaking at the King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center during his trip the Arab kingdom, Blinken told World Economic Forum President Borge Brende, “I think the single biggest, most effective rebuke to both Iran and Hamas would be Israel having normal relations with every country in this region and the realization of a Palestinian state.”

Speaking about Israel-Saudi normalization, he added “But then in order to move forward with normalization, two things will be required: calm in Gaza and a credible pathway to a Palestinian state. So to the extent we finish our work between us, then I think what’s been a hypothetical or a theoretical question suddenly becomes real. And people will have to make decisions.”

Israel’s Kan News reported last month that the Saudis had accused Iran of instigating the conflict in Gaza to undermine the prospect of Saudi Arabia joining the Abraham Accords.

 

At the time, a source in the royal family also said that Tehran promotes terrorism and suggested that Riyadh played a role in thwarting last month’s unprecedented drone and missile attack against Israel by the Islamic Republic and its proxies.

“We confront every suspicious object that enters Saudi airspace. This is a matter of sovereignty,” the source said.

The Israeli government is opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state given Ramallah’s support for terrorism, which could derail any chances for normalization. Recent polling shows a majority of Israelis are also against Palestinian statehood.

More than half of the Israeli public opposes the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a deal that would end the war against Hamas and normalize relations between Jerusalem and Riyadh, according to a January survey from the Israel Democracy Institute.

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