Democrats tell Biden Saudi-Israeli deal needs concessions for Palestinians | ET REALITY


Democratic senators told President Biden on Wednesday that any diplomatic pact between Saudi Arabia and Israel would have to include a commitment by Israel to stop settlements in Palestinian territories and preserve “the option of a two-state solution.”

The demands would likely meet stiff resistance from hardline members of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, who have blocked all substantial concessions to the Palestinians.

In a letter signed by 20 senators, the lawmakers also expressed concern that a new U.S. defense treaty with Saudi Arabia, which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman insists is part of a deal to normalize relations with Israel, could involve even more to the United States in the Middle East.

“A high degree of evidence would be needed,” the letter says, “to demonstrate that a binding defense treaty with Saudi Arabia – an authoritarian regime that regularly undermines US interests in the region – has a deeply troubling human rights record. and has pursued an aggressive and reckless foreign policy agenda that aligns with the interests of the United States.”

The letter is a sign of how much skepticism the Biden administration faces from Democrats as it tries to navigate already complex negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Any new defense deal with Saudi Arabia would require approval by two-thirds of the Senate, meaning Democratic support is crucial for Biden.

Prince Mohammed also insists that Israel make concessions to the Palestinians as part of the deal, and Democratic senators insisted Wednesday that the concessions must be significant.

“It can’t be some kind of box-ticking exercise,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, one of the signatories, said during a call with reporters.

The measures the senators listed are significant, including Israel’s commitment not to annex part of the West Bank and a halt to the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements. These actions, the senators wrote, would help achieve Biden’s stated goal of “preserving the option of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“These elements are essential to any sustainable peace in the Middle East and to preserving Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state,” the letter said.

The Netanyahu government is likely to take a dim view of these demands. Since he took power last year, Israel’s far-right government has announced huge expansions of Israeli settlements, making the prospects of ever creating a Palestinian state even more remote.

U.S. officials have said Netanyahu is eager for a diplomatic pact with Saudi Arabia, which could be a political windfall for him at a time when he faces fierce opposition in his own country over his efforts to weaken Israel’s judiciary. .

The issue of normalizing Saudi Arabia’s relations with Israel was at the center of a meeting last month between Biden and Netanyahu, according to people familiar with the private meeting.

During His speech At the United Nations, Biden cited the benefits of Israel becoming more integrated into the rest of the Middle East but said he remained committed to a Palestinian state.

His administration, he said, was working “tirelessly to support a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians: two states for two peoples.”

Karoun Demirjian contributed reports.

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