Report: Saudis pressured UAE to cancel energy deal with Israel

Saudi government pressured UAE to back off major solar energy deal with Israel and Jordan. The agreement was slightly reworded.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The Saudi government pressured the United Arab Emirates to back off a major solar energy deal with Israel and Jordan, two senior Israeli officials with direct knowledge and another source briefed on the matter told Axios on Wednesday.

The agreement, signed on Monday and helped across the finish line by US climate envoy John Kerry, is the biggest renewable energy project in the region. It will see the UAE build a massive solar farm in Jordan to supply electricity to Israel, and Israel in turn will build a desalination plant to provide water to Jordan.

The Saudis were caught by surprise when Axios broke the news of the forthcoming deal last Wednesday, the Israeli officials said.

All three sources told the site that Saudi officials were upset because they felt the deal undermined Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's plans to lead the region on climate through his "Green Middle East" vision.

Senior Saudi officials called their Emirati counterparts to protest and push them to back off the deal. They even proposed an alternative Saudi-UAE-Jordan deal that would sideline Israel, a source briefed on the conversations said.

The Emiratis notified Kerry and their Israeli and Jordanian counterparts of the Saudi pressure and asked for cosmetic changes to the language of the agreement to appease the Saudis. The other parties did not object.

The signing of the agreement was delayed for several hours on Monday due to the Saudi intervention, the Israeli officials said. It was finally signed on Monday afternoon, with Kerry in attendance.

Four senior Israeli officials with direct involvement in the deal declined to comment on the record due to the sensitivity of the issue. Emirati officials also declined to comment. The Saudi Embassy in Washington hadn't provided a comment by the time of publication.

Israel and the UAE established formal relations as part of the Abraham Accords, but Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have such relations.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly held a secret meeting last November in which they discussed the possibility of normalizing relations between their two countries.

Subsequent reports said the Crown Prince pulled back from a normalization deal with Israel largely because of the US election result. Riyadh denied the meeting had even taken place.

Saudi leaders have repeatedly stressed that the establishment of a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital is a prerequisite for Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel.

A recent report indicated that the Biden administration is holding meetings with Saudi Arabia on the issue of normalization with Israel.

According to the report, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan raised the issue in his meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince during his visit to the kingdom.

Sources cited in the report said that bin Salman did not reject outright the possibility of normalizing ties with Israel. The Saudis emphasized, however, that such a process would take time, and gave Sullivan a list of steps which will need to be taken before it can happen. Several of those steps include improving the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US.