Israel hoping for breakthrough with Saudis during US security advisor visit

Announcing his trip on Thursday, Sullivan said Washington was working hard to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

 US PRESIDENT Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, last July: Saudi Arabia is not able to give up the American defensive shield, and believes Israel has a role in securing this. (photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, last July: Saudi Arabia is not able to give up the American defensive shield, and believes Israel has a role in securing this.
(photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/REUTERS)

Israel is hoping for a breakthrough this weekend in efforts to normalize ties with Saudi Arabia during White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan's visit there, a senior security official said on Friday.

The head of Israel's National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegbi, spoke on Wednesday with his counterpart Sullivan, who is set to travel to Saudi Arabia on Saturday. Sullivan is expected to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Hanegbi said.

Announcing his trip on Thursday, Sullivan said Washington was working hard to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia - a major goal set by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who briefly joined Sullivan's video call with Hanegbi.

"We are very, very hopeful that there will be a breakthrough during his visit there," Hanegbi told Reshet 13 News.

 US national security adviser Jake Sullivan takes part in a news briefing about the situation in Afghanistan at the White House in Washington, US, August 17, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS) US national security adviser Jake Sullivan takes part in a news briefing about the situation in Afghanistan at the White House in Washington, US, August 17, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)

Asked whether a breakthrough would be a phone call between Saudi leaders and Netanyahu, Hangebi said: "There are those who say that there have been more than phone calls between Saudi and Israeli leaders. But what is important is that the United States lead a move adding Saudi Arabia to the Abraham Accords - normalization and peace with Israel. If that happens it will be a historic turning point."

Diplomatic relations brokered in 2020

Former President Donald Trump's administration in 2020 brokered the historic peace deal known as the Abraham Accords, which included the normalization of diplomatic relations between Gulf allies the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain with Israel, all of which share security fears over Iran.

While Saudi Arabia signaled approval of the 2020 accords, it has held off on following suit, saying Palestinian goals for statehood should be addressed first.

Any such prospects have been clouded, however, by Riyadh's strains with U.S. President Joe Biden, its recent fence-mending with regional rival Iran, and the rise of Netanyahu's hard-right Israeli government.