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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : America’s pursuit of Saudi-Israel rapprochement




Source: The Hindu

Prelims: Current events of international importance, west Asia, saudi-Iran conflict, Arab League, OPEC, OPEC+, G20 etc

Mains GS Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global grouping and agreements involving India or affecting India’s interests.



  • The Middle East to spring surprises are on call again.
  • United States diplomacy to reconcile two regional powerhouses, viz. Saudi Arabia and Israel.




The Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

  • It dates back to the end of the nineteenth century, and is one of the world’s most enduring conflicts, with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
  • The Israel and Palestine conflict is complex: It’s rooted in national, political, territorial, cultural and religious factors
  • The core issue is not just about the land; it is about having the right to self-determination



Challenges for US in Saudi-Israel pursuit:

  • The PM of Israel heads an extreme right-wing coalition determined to accelerate the Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank and curb the judiciary’s independence
    • The U.S. strongly opposes both.
  • Saudi Crown Prince, initially ostracized by the Biden Administration for his alleged involvement in the Jamal Khashoggi murder
    • The Kingdom has been calm towards Washington.


Saudi initiatives:

  • It has reconciled tactically, with Iran through Chinese mediation, hosted the Chinese President for three summits in Riyadh
  • Cooperated with Russia under the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries-Plus (OPEC+) rubric for higher oil prices
  • It facilitated the return of Syria to the Arab fold.


Steps by the US to persuade Saudi Arabia to normalize its relations with Israel:

  • The proposal to normalize has been on the Saudi table since 2020
  • The Saudi Crown Prince and Israel PM had an unpublicised meeting in Neom, Saudi Arabia, in the presence of the then-U.S. Secretary of State
  • S. National Security Adviser and U.S. Secretary of State visiting Saudi Arabia.


Pre-conditions by Saudi:

  • To be included in North Atlantic Treaty Organization-like U.S. security guarantees
  • Access to advanced American weapons systems
  • Approval for the acquisition of civilian nuclear technology
  • Israeli commitment to a process leading to a two-state solution with the Palestinians.


Motives of US, Saudi and Israel:


  • It is deeply concerned with the growing influence by China and Russia in the ‘Middle East’
  • It wants to re-entrench the Pax Americana over the region by bringing two traditionally pro-west regional players together.
  • It feels that fostering such a reconciliation would ingratiate USA with the two miffed leaders.
  • The powerful Jewish lobby’s gratitude would help Mr. Biden win the U.S. presidential election next year.


Saudi Arabia:

  • Under the Crown Prince, it has adopted an assertive and ambitious foreign policy
    • commensurate with its oil wealth
    • To become primus inter pares for the region
    • To emerge as an important global player.
  • By reconciling with Israel, it takes away the first movers’ advantage that the UAE has had as a member of the “Abraham Accords”.
  • The diplomatic ties with Israel would balance the Kingdom’s recent reconciliation with Iran and Syria
    • It helps it emerge as a more nationalist power than an Islamic one.
  • Saudi Arabia needs a stronger U.S. security commitment and access to Israeli technology.
  • The Saudi Crown Prince may need to mitigate the skepticism about Israel at home and within Al-Saud.



  • A Star of David flying in Riyadh would be a major geopolitical victory
  • It will symbolize its final acceptance as a legitimate Jewish state by the center of Islam after 75 years as a regional outcast.
  • Given the Kingdom’s trendsetting role as the custodian of Islam’s two holy shrines
    • The Riyadh-Tel Aviv détente: It would herald Israel’s integration with the Arab-Islamic world.
  • It would provide direct air and land access to Asia, enabling better leveraging of the economic opportunities as the economic center of gravity shifts eastwards.


Way Forward

  • The global fallout from such a development would be quite profound: The Islamic mainstream would likely follow the Saudi lead, with countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia in the first row.
  • It would further marginalize the “Palestinians’ Cause” and may polarize and radicalize along with other opponents of Israel such as Iran and Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic State.
  • The U.S. may eventually succeed despite the formidable odds, particularly as the Israeli government would have to moderate some of its hard-held policies.
  • Saudi-Israeli rapprochement would have a mildly positive impact on India.
    • It would remove a contradiction in India’s regional policy and better align Saudi Arabia with us.
    • It may open opportunities as the U.S. pushes back China from the region.
  • It may give Israel reasons to hyphenate India with Islamic countries, including Pakistan.



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Editorial Analysis – 5 Aug 2023