Israeli FM confirms efforts to normalise ties with Saudi Arabia
Israel is pushing for Saudi Arabia to be the next Arab state to normalise relations with it, the Israeli foreign minister has said.
Riyadh is being courted by Israel, the US, and a number of Gulf Arab nations to break with decades of Arab consensus by recognising Israel as a state, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid suggested on Monday.
"We believe that it is possible to have a normalisation process with Saudi Arabia. It's in our interest," Lapid told local Army Radio. "We've already said that this is the next step after the Abraham Accords, to talk about a long and careful process."
"We’re working with the US and the Gulf states on this."
Four Arab states - Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and the UAE - signed the so-called Abraham Accords brokered by former US President Donald Trump in 2020.
Other Arab nations have in recent weeks discussed legislation that could make normalisation of ties with Israel illegal.
Riyadh supported the accords, but at that time stated it would only normalise relations with Israel if there was "significant progress" towards peace between Israel and Palestine.
Saudi Arabia, like the majority of Arab states, has insisted it will not recognise Israel unless a Palestinian state is established.
In the two years since the accords were signed, Israel has shown no sign of relenting its violent attacks on Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The FM’s comments come amid increasing rumours of steps towards normalisation between Saudi Arabia and the occupying Israeli state.
Last week, an Axios report said the US Biden administration has been quietly mediating between Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia to encourage Riyadh to normalise ties.
It also said White House Middle East Coordinator Brett McGurk and State Department Energy Envoy Amos Hochstein arrived in Riyadh last week for talks with senior Saudi officials. The meeting is a precursor to a potential visit to Saudi Arabia by Biden himself late next month, Axios said.
Days later, local Israeli outlet Channel12 reported the visit of an unnamed senior Israeli official who visited Saudi Arabia "very recently". There have also been unconfirmed reports of Saudi businessmen visiting Israel.
Meanwhile, the US is also reportedly brokering a secret deal to transfer two Red Sea islands that lie close to the Israeli port of Eilat back into Saudi hands. Such a move would increase strategic cooperation between the two regional players, and is seen by some as a prelude to more extensive normalisation.