Saudi Arabia Is Expected To Eventually Resume Its Secret Normalization Talks With Israel
To deflect from predictable accusations of “selling out to the Zionists”, Mohammed Bin Salman might have his country offer to fund Gaza’s reconstruction.
Biden speculated on Friday that “I cannot prove what I’m about to say. But I believe one of the reasons why Hamas struck when they did was they knew that I was working very closely with the Saudis and others in the region to bring peace to the region by having recognition of Israel and Israel’s right to exist.” Despite his well-known gaffes, he actually has a solid point this time since there’s no denying that Hamas’ sneak attack on Israel served to derail the US’ planned expansion of the Abraham Accords.
Prior reports indicate that this operation was planned over the past two years, during which time information had already leaked to the media regarding the existence of secret US-facilitated Israeli-Saudi talks. The clearest indication that the parties were making impressive progress and were likely on the brink of something big was the announcement of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) during September’s G20 Summit in Delhi.
This megaproject envisages Israel functioning as the pivotal intermodal node for facilitating European-Indian trade via West Asia, which would necessitate the normalization of Israeli-Saudi relations due to the Kingdom’s associated role in this framework. IMEC wouldn’t have been announced had the parties not been about to reach an agreement to that effect, though many are now debating whether the progress they made thus far is simply frozen or forever ruined.
Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinians has incensed Muslims across the world, and as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Saudi Arabia believes that it has the moral responsibility to stand up for its oppressed co-religionists by at the very least pausing these talks for now according to sources. Continuing with them under these brutal conditions would amount to a blatant betrayal of the Palestinian cause that’s so dear to Muslims for religious and humanitarian reasons, hence that decision.
Nevertheless, it would be premature to conclude that the US’ hoped-for expansion of the Abraham Accords to include Saudi Arabia in some capacity or another is doomed. After all, this remains the prerequisite for unlocking the IMEC megaproject that’s integral to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s (MBS) Vision 2030 initiative for modernizing the Kingdom’s economy, so it’s difficult to imagine that he’d throw away everything that he’s achieved up until this point just because of the latest war.
That’s not in any way whatsoever to downplay the atrocities that have been committed against the Palestinian people, but just to draw attention to MBS’ likely policymaking calculations. He’s known to be Machiavellian so no one should put it past him that he might countenance the resumption of his Kingdom’s US-facilitated secret talks with Israel once everything calms down. To deflect from predictable accusations of “selling out to the Zionists”, he might have his country offer to fund Gaza’s reconstruction.
If he does so and no other stakeholders significantly contribute to footing the bill for this gargantuan undertaking, which few among the Arab World can afford while many Western countries might decline in order to not offend Israel, then the soft power stage could be set for picking up where he left off. From MBS’ perspective, not only would this unlock IMEC and thus advance his cherished Vision 2030, but it’s also a matter of national prestige too since his country despises Hamas’ Muslim Brotherhood allies.
That umbrella group from which Hamas emerged is officially designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, so the scenario of their ideological spawn’s sneak attack against Israel ruining the Kingdom’s grand strategic plans is absolutely unacceptable to him in principle, hence why he’s unlikely to let it become reality. While it might still be some way off, it’s therefore foreseeable that MBS will recommence US-facilitated secret talks with Israel at some future point aimed at normalizing their relations in order to unlock IMEC.