Saudi-Israel Normalization Remains ‘Difficult,’ Blinken Says

(Bloomberg) -- The US is working on normalizing diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel with the goal of achieving a “transformative” agreement, but the process remains fraught over specifics, including Palestine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday.

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“Even as we are working on this, it remains a difficult proposition,” Blinken told reporters when asked about a possible deal.

“The specifics of any agreement, in terms of what the different parties are looking for, are challenging,” he continued. “And so while I believe it is very much possible, it is not at all a certainty. But we believe that the benefit that would accrue, were we able to achieve it, would certainly be worth the effort.”

Blinken — asked whether a deal would be worth it for the US, given Saudi Arabia’s recent refusals to raise oil production and Israel’s insistence on expanding controversial settlements — said the Biden administration expects “progress on a number of issues” of US concern in any deal reached between the two nations.

A Saudi-Israel pact would also bring greater stability to the Middle East, he said, adding that having the Jewish state recognized by the custodian of Islam’s holiest shrines would “resonate very, very powerfully” around the region.

“We’ve been drawn in, time and again, to that region, when it was in turmoil, when it was in conflict,” Blinken said, adding that a region “defined by integration” would be “a singularly positive event.”

Still, Blinken said any possible deal would not be a “substitute for Israel and the Palestinians also resolving their differences and, indeed, in our judgment, continuing to move toward and ultimately achieving a two-state solution.” And that that his own conversations with Saudi leadership have made clear that there will need to be a “significant component” for the Palestinians.

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