Biden and Bennett
Biden and Bennett Reuters

The White House has been working on a “road map for normalization” between Israel and Saudi Arabia ahead of President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East next month, four US sources briefed on the issue told Barak Ravid of Axios on Wednesday.

The White House last week held a briefing with think tank experts about Biden’s trip to the region and floated the theme of a “road map for normalization” without elaborating, the four sources said.

Officials said during the briefing that there will not be an agreement before Biden's visit, but they are working on it and the President will discuss it with Israeli and Saudi leaders during the trip, the sources added.

The White House thinks that any road map for normalization will take time and will be a long-term process, a different source briefed on the issue said. Another source briefed on the matter described the strategy as a step-by-step approach.

A National Security Council spokesperson said they "support broadening and deepening Arab-Israeli ties."

A senior Israeli official said he doesn’t expect a major breakthrough regarding normalization with Saudi Arabia during Biden’s trip, but stressed an agreement to allow Israeli airlines to use Saudi airspace for flights to India and China is very close.

A US source briefed on the White House plans said, with the roadmap, he thinks the White House is trying to lower expectations about what is possible at the moment and what isn’t and focus on starting a process.

During Biden's visit to the Middle East, the White House also plans for the president to discuss a vision for “integrated missile defense and naval defense” among the US, Israel and several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, four US sources told Axios.

Axios had previously reported that Biden’s advisers Brett McGurk and Amos Hochstein were on a secret visit to Saudi Arabia.

According to the report, McGurk and Hochstein discussed increasing oil production, the Red Sea islands deal, further normalization steps with Israel, and President Biden's possible visit to Saudi Arabia.

Earlier reports indicated that the Biden administration has been quietly mediating among Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt on negotiations that, if successful, could be a first step on the road to the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Israel has been for years rumored to have behind-the-scenes ties with Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis have vehemently denied those rumors.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi Crown Prince 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 Arabian officials have repeatedly said that a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital is a prerequisite for Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel.