Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Crown Prince Mohammed bin SalmanREUTERS

Saudi Arabia and Israel remain far from reaching a deal to normalize relations, senior Israeli officials said recently, according to a report by Ha'aretz Wednesday.

The report contradicts media reports in the past few weeks which suggested a breakthrough in ties between the two countries is in the offing.

According to the report, several issues complicate the chances of reaching a normalization agreement, including Saudi demands the US back its bid to establish a civilian nuclear program, which has raised serious concerns in both Israel and the United States.

In addition, plans for confidence-building steps that would precede a major agreement, such as the inauguration of a direct flight route between Israel and Saudi Arabia during the Hajj period for Israeli Muslims making the pilgrimage, may not materialize this year.

One political source cited by the report said: "Biden wants to achieve an Israeli-Saudi agreement and present it as an international achievement in the next election campaign, but he will have a problem if the price is a nuclear program in Saudi Arabia."

The Head of Israel's National Security Council, Tzahi Hanegbi, told Galei Tzahal Tuesday that "The Saudi demands are aimed at the United States. It's an American dilemma, what the US is willing to pay in exchange for an agreement. We are not always aware of what is happening in the Saudi-American relationship. There are issues that require approval from the US Congress, and we are not involved in that."

Regarding the demand for a civilian nuclear program, he added, "The Americans will not move forward on this issue with Saudi Arabia without being closely in touch with us. If a country wants a civilian nuclear program, it [may be] because it wants to exploit it for military capability."

Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ronen Levy, said this week that while Israel does hope to reach an agreement with Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem is also working to develop ties with smaller Muslim states, and has not invested all of its efforts solely in courting Riyadh.