Jason Greenblatt, who served as former US President Donald Trump's Special Representative for International Negotiations, predicted in an interview published on Wednesday in Israel Hayom that a deal to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia is imminent.
While Greenblatt was clear that it is difficult and that he does not place bets, he says that even if it would not happen immediately, the talks are on a good path.
According to him, if he were currently working in the same position for President Biden as he did for Trump, he would say that the best thing that the US could do, even if it is not realistic, is to encourage Crown Prince Bin Salman and Prime Minister Netanyahu to talk directly without US mediation. In his opinion, it would be better than a situation where the US is the mediator, or even worse if the US pressures Israel into giving things it doesn't want to the Palestinians.
Greenblatt is highly involved in Saudi Arabia as a businessman who often visits the kingdom. Last week, he was even a guest of the Saudi Embassy in Washington for its national day celebrations. He recounts that he proudly wore his kipa and was warmly welcomed. He says this is a significant change from the past, and it fills him with hope for the future.
He also recalled how, in 2017, he traveled to Saudi Arabia ahead of President Trump's visit to the country. He described the very lonely Shabbat he spent in Riyadh, eating the meager kosher food that he brought from home and received from a US military base, and how, on that trip, he did not wear his kipa. Back then, he says, the mere mention of Israel to the Saudis caused discomfort, and the US State Department suggested that President Trump refrain from doing so. Trump disagreed and mentioned the Jewish state several times.
In contrast, Greenblatt now wears his kipa when he walks the streets of Saudi Arabia, sits in its restaurants, and visits its malls, and so do his family members. According to him, the Saudis understand that they have similar religious needs, demands, and feelings, and they respect that. He adds that many Saudis even wish him 'Shabbat Shalom', and he received many greetings for the Jewish New Year, in English and even in Hebrew. He thinks they respect Jews even more than many Europeans he knows. The drastic changes caused Greenblatt to feel optimistic about the Saudis.
He adds that Saudi Arabia still remains a very religiously conservative nation, but he believes that they are trying to distance themselves from the radicalism that was present in the country for many years. He says that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are undergoing an unbelievable transformation, which includes opening up to other people, including Jews.
Greenblatt mentioned the Fox News interview with Bin Salman, in which the crown prince said that his nation is getting closer to normalization with Israel every day and outlined what he would do for the Palestinians. Greenblatt says that he believes that the Saudis have learned that it is possible to help the Palestinians in a way that puts their own needs first.
When asked if the Saudis would be ready within half a year to a year to accept thousands of Israeli tourists, Greenblatt answered that it would take time. He explained that for years, there was a specific kind of education in the kingdom about Israel and others, including Jews, and that now there is a transformation period.