Saudi Arabia is determined to secure a military pact requiring the United States to defend the kingdom in return for opening ties with Israel and will not hold up a deal even if Israel does not offer major concessions to Palestinian Arabs, Reuters reported on Friday, citing three regional sources familiar with the talks.
A US source quoted in the report said a US-Saudi pact could look like treaties Washington has with Asian states or, if that would not win US Congress approval, it could be similar to a US agreement with Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet is based. Such an agreement would not need congressional backing.
Washington could also sweeten any deal by designating Saudi Arabia a Major Non-NATO Ally, a status already given to Israel, the US source said.
While the deal is widely expected to include Israeli concessions towards the Palestinian Authority, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said that the Palestinian Arab issue will be part of a normalization agreement, three sources told Reuters that the Palestinian Arab core demand for statehood would take a back seat.
"The normalization will be between Israel and Saudi Arabia. If the Palestinians oppose it the kingdom will continue in its path," said one of the regional sources. "Saudi Arabia supports a peace plan for the Palestinians, but this time it wanted something for Saudi Arabia, not just for the Palestinians."
The Saudi government did not respond to questions about the article.
A US State Department spokesperson said in response, "Many of the key elements of a pathway towards normalization are now on the table and there is a broad understanding of those elements, which we will not discuss publicly."
"There's still lots of work to do, and we're working through it," the spokesperson added, saying there was not yet a formal framework and stakeholders were working on legal and other elements.
The spokesperson did not address specifics about the U.S.-Saudi defense pact in the response.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during his speech to the UN General Assembly last week that "I believe that we are at the cusp of a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Such a peace will go a long way to ending the Arab Israeli conflict."
Two days before Netanyahu’s speech, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman commented on the negotiations with Israel in an interview with Fox News.
"Every day we get closer, it seems it's for the first time real one serious. We get to see how it goes," he said, adding his country could work with Israel, no matter who is in charge and calling a potential deal "the biggest historical deal since the end of the Cold War."
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Haim Katz landed in Riyadh this week in order to take part in the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference. Katz became the first Israeli minister to head an official delegation to Saudi Arabia.
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Sukkot in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)