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#MiddleEast: Biden wants a defense pact with Saudi Arabia

The White House announced a “near final” defense pact with Saudi Arabia yesterday

American troops might be pledged to defend Saudi territory soon. President Joe Biden is seeking a "mega-deal" that would bind the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel into a Middle Eastern military alliance. After Biden's National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman last week, both governments announced that they had a "near-final" version of a defense pact worked out.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (known as MBS) receives US President Joe Biden at the Royal Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 15, 2022. (Abaca Press/Balkis Press/Abaca/Sipa USA/Newscom)

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Israel seem to have very different ideas of what Biden's mega-deal would mean for them. Last year, the Israeli side was quite optimistic. Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer stated that a Saudi-Israeli deal would be a "reverse 9/11." But the war in Gaza has revived the Palestinian issue in Arab politics, and Saudi Arabia is now demanding Palestinian independence as a prerequisite to a deal with Israel.

This weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implied that he would reject a Saudi deal because an independent Palestine "will inevitably be a terror state." At the same time, Saudi Arabia has been trying to do an end-run around Netanyahu, pushing for a "less-for-less model" that cuts Israel out of the pact. The Biden administration, however, believes that it can still get everyone on board.

"The integrated vision is a bilateral understanding between the United States and Saudi Arabia combined with normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, combined with meaningful steps on behalf of the Palestinian people," Sullivan, the Biden adviser, said earlier this month. "All of that has to come together…you can't disentangle one piece from the others."

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