Israeli Opposition Leader Benny Gantz Visits Washington to Discuss Israel-Saudi Arabia Normalization Deal
Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz, from the National Unity party, arrived in Washington on an unannounced visit to hold meetings with White House officials. Gantz met with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and other senior US officials to discuss the potential historic normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Major Focus: Advancing Israel’s Security Interests and Expanding Regional Integration
- Gantz and Sullivan discussed advancing Israel’s vital security interests.
- They talked about expanding Israel’s integration in the Middle East region.
- Both leaders emphasized the importance of dealing with the threats posed by Iran and its proxies in the region.
This visit follows the visit of Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid to Washington last month, where he also met with Biden administration officials and senators to discuss the potential Israel-Saudi Arabia agreement. The visit of Gantz reinforces the opposition’s commitment to support a normalization deal from outside the government.
Why This Matters: Historic Breakthrough for Israel’s Middle East Standing
If the normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia is achieved, it would mark a historic breakthrough in Israel’s Middle East standing. Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, has never officially recognized Israel and has long maintained that recognition should only occur after a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The US-brokered Abraham Accords, signed in 2020, saw Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco establish formal ties with Israel, but Saudi Arabia did not join the accords. However, recent developments indicate that Saudi and Israeli negotiators are moving toward the outline of a deal, as confirmed by both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
What’s Next: Progressing Negotiations and Addressing Palestinian Concerns
In recent breakthroughs, two Israeli ministers visited Saudi Arabia, marking the first-ever official Israeli visits to the country. Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi praised the warming relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and participating in a morning prayer service that included three Jews not part of his delegation.
Riyadh is bargaining for security guarantees from Washington and assistance with a civilian nuclear program, which requires uranium enrichment capacity. However, the Palestinians have raised concerns and demanded their inclusion in any deal, emphasizing the need for a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has indicated a willingness to make concessions for the Palestinians, but the inclusion of far-right coalition partners makes executing such concessions challenging. The steps proposed by the Palestinians include US backing for recognizing Palestinian statehood, reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinians, and the transfer of West Bank territory from Israeli to Palestinian control.
As negotiations progress, 20 Democratic senators have expressed their general support for the normalization effort while urging the Biden administration to use the deal to advance a two-state solution.
“The US-brokered deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia has the potential to enhance Israel’s security and contribute to regional stability. We support this historic opportunity but urge the administration to prioritize the two-state solution and address concerns regarding Saudi Arabia’s security demands,” the senators wrote in a letter to President Biden.
The visit of Benny Gantz to Washington signifies the continued efforts to shape the potential normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. While challenges remain, the dialogue and negotiations between the parties offer hope for a positive breakthrough in the region.
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