Joe Biden’s disastrous Israel-Saudi peace plan

by Eric Levine

Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman can save the Middle East from the Biden administration.

(JNS) In an attempt to prove that he is not finished trying to destroy the Middle East and undermine Israel and America’s national security interests, President Joe Biden is now pushing ahead with an ill-conceived plan to link the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia to Israel’s acceptance of a Palestinian state.

Israel should thank the president for his efforts and take a pass.

Biden’s efforts are reminiscent of former President Jimmy Carter’s initial unwitting attempt to thwart peace between Egypt and Israel in 1978. Upon hearing that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin wanted to negotiate a peace deal, Carter proposed an international conference to forge a comprehensive agreement between Israel and the entire Arab world.

Sadat knew this would destroy any chance of peace with Israel. To make the point that the negotiations were strictly between Egypt and Israel, Sadat traveled to Jerusalem to address the Knesset. It was one of the 20th century’s most important acts of bravery. Sadat’s trip ultimately led to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty and set a precedent for future agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Both Israel and Egypt reaped tremendous benefits. Egypt regained the Sinai Desert, which it lost to Israel in 1967; received billions of dollars in foreign aid from the United States, which Sadat desperately needed to feed his people and save the Egyptian economy; and got American weapons and training for the Egyptian military.

For its part, Israel sidelined the largest standing army in the Arab world, thus ensuring no regional foe could militarily threaten its existence.

Like the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, full normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be a transformative event. Done properly, it would change the complexion of the Middle East forever.

Because any such agreement will include American security guarantees for Saudi Arabia, it will firmly entrench the Saudis in the American sphere of influence. The Saudis are currently watching as the U.S. publicly distances itself from Israel as Israel tries to destroy Hamas and retaliate against Iran. While Biden is undermining Israel, the Saudis are rooting for Israel to destroy Hamas and act as a bulwark against Iran’s aggression. Biden’s perfidy cannot help but cause the Saudis to question the value of an American security “guarantee.”  

Under the right conditions, full normalization with Saudi Arabia will be a dream come true for Israel. It will represent full integration into the region, which will send a message to Israel’s enemies that Israel is a nation like any other and will be treated as such.  

Rather than press forward to end the Arab-Israeli conflict and put the final touches on a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Biden has decided to give the Palestinians veto power over the process.

As a moral issue, it is appalling that the Biden administration is willing to reward Hamas for the Oct. 7 massacre. Biden’s plan will make Hamas into heroes. They will be the ones whose “bravery” won their fellow Palestinians their own state.

The survival and ascendency of Hamas will also mean that their benefactor Iran will be further empowered and entrenched in the region. Thus, a Palestinian state will be an existential threat to Israel. It will become a base from which Hamas and other Iran-sponsored terrorists can launch attacks intended to destroy the Jewish state. Iran will use the same proxy forces to overthrow our Arab allies.

Moreover, as an independent state, “Palestine” will be free to enter into treaties with other countries. What should Israel do when there are Iranian military bases in Jenin and Gaza City?

To highlight the foolishness of the Biden plan, history shows that the establishment of a Palestinian state is not a prerequisite to peace. Indeed, the opposite is true.  

The Israel-Jordan peace treaty and the Abraham Accords did not require the establishment of a Palestinian state. That was by design. The Arab states knew any such requirement would give the Palestinians veto power over their respective nations’ ability to make peace. These Arab states understand that the Palestinians have no interest in making peace.

On Oct. 6, 2023, Saudi Arabia was on the cusp of entering the Abraham Accords. The kingdom’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) had made numerous demands in exchange for full normalization with Israel. Not one of those demands included the establishment of a Palestinian state. MBS, like his fellow Arab leaders, has no intention of giving the Palestinians veto power over his nation’s national security.

As historic and important as normalization with Saudi Arabia would be, Israel must decline Biden’s offer. Rather than ending the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Biden plan would create an Iran-dominated terror state in the center of the Middle East. It will pose an existential threat not just to Israel but to our Gulf Arab allies as well. In short, the creation of a Palestinian state now will undermine everything the normalization process is designed to achieve. 

But all is not lost. Israel and Saudi Arabia have made significant progress towards normalization that cannot be reversed.  

Unlike Egypt in 1978, Saudi Arabia poses no military or geopolitical threat to Israel. Because Iran is a common enemy, the two countries have unprecedented cooperation between their intelligence services. During Iran’s unprecedented attack on the Jewish state, Saudi Arabia participated in the effort to help protect Israel. As a result, MBS sleeps more soundly at night. He knows that if Iran ever threatens his kingdom, Israel will help defend Saudi Arabia. None of that will change even if Israel and the Saudis do not formalize relations.

The two countries are already engaged in commerce. Additional commercial and economic ties are being contemplated. This will continue with or without a formal normalization agreement.

All parties should work towards improving the lives of innocent Palestinians. But establishing a Palestinian state now or requiring Israel to take “concrete and irreversible steps” towards creating one is not an option at the moment.  

It is time, however, for another Sadat to emerge. MBS should seize the moment and go to Israel. History will record it as one of the 21st century’s most important acts of bravery. With that one trip, he can change history.

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