Antony Blinken
Antony BlinkenREUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Pool

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia is still willing to normalize ties with Israel, but is demanding that a path be found for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv after holding meetings with Israeli leaders, Blinken said, “When I saw the crown prince in Saudi Arabia just a couple of days ago, he repeated to me his desire and determination to pursue normalization. But he also repeated that in order to do that, two things need to happen. One, there needs to be calm in Gaza; two, there needs to be a clear and credible pathway to a Palestinian state.”

The Secretary of State noted that “you can see the path forward for Israel and for the entire region with integration, with normalization, with security assurances, with the pathway to a Palestinian state. That entirely changes the equation and the future for the better for Israelis, for Arabs, for Palestinians, and in so doing isolates groups like Hamas, isolates countries like Iran, that want a very different future. But as I also said, going down that path, pursuing it, requires hard decisions. None of this is easy.”

“And so it will be up to Israelis to decide what they want to do, when they want to do it, how they want to do it,” continued Blinken. “No one’s going to make those decisions for them. All that we can do is to show what the possibilities are, what the options are, what the future could be, and compare it to the alternative. And the alternative right now looks like an endless cycle of violence and destruction and despair. We know where the better path lies, but I don’t minimize in any way the very difficult decisions that would need to be made by all concerned to travel down that path.”

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry said that the kingdom has told the US its position stands that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized on the pre-1967 borders and Israeli "aggression" on the Gaza Strip stops/

The Saudi statement came after White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby said that the Biden administration has received positive feedback that Saudi Arabia and Israel are willing to continue to have normalization discussions.

The ministry made clear that the kingdom issued the statement to affirm its steadfast position to Washington on the Palestinian Arab issue in the light of the comments attributed to Kirby.

Saudi officials have long insisted that statehood for the Palestinian Arabs must be part of any process which concludes in the kingdom recognizing Israel and normalizing ties.

However, a report last week indicated that Saudi Arabia would be willing to accept a political commitment from Israel to create a Palestinian state, rather than anything more binding, in a bid to get a defense pact with Washington approved before the US presidential election.

Israel and Saudi Arabia appeared to be on track towards normalization before Hamas’ October 7 attack against Israel and the war in Gaza which followed.

Shortly after the start of the war in Gaza, sources told Reuters that Saudi Arabia is putting the US-backed plans to normalize ties with Israel on ice.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, later said that he believes talks on normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia will resume immediately after the conclusion of the war in Gaza.