Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sending his closest confidant, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, to Washington next week for talks at the White House about the Biden administration's push for a mega-deal with Saudi Arabia that could include a Saudi-Israel normalization agreement, three Israeli and US officials told Barak Ravid of Axios.
Dermer is expected to arrive in Washington next week and hold meetings at the White House on August 17, Israeli and US officials said.
Dermer is expected to meet White House National Security adviser Jake Sullivan, as well as President Joe Biden's senior Middle East adviser Brett McGurk and senior adviser for energy Amos Hochstein. The three are the key US officials leading the Saudi Arabia diplomatic push.
The White House officials have visited Saudi Arabia twice in the last two weeks and are expected to brief Dermer on their talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to Axios.
In his call with Biden last month, Netanyahu said he wants to send Dermer to Washington to present a plan to reach a possible security agreement between the US and Israel.
Israeli officials said Netanyahu and Dermer want this security agreement to be focused on deterring Iran in the context of the mega-deal the Biden administration is trying to reach with Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Israeli officials told Axios the possible security agreement will be one of the main issues Dermer is expected to discuss with Sullivan, McGurk and Hochstein.
The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment, but a senior Israeli official confirmed Dermer is traveling to Washington to hold talks as part of the ongoing dialogue with the Biden administration.
A senior White House official said Dermer's trip "is a routine engagement on a broad spectrum of issues."
Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States and Saudi Arabia have agreed on the broad outlines of a deal for Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel in exchange for concessions to the Palestinian Arabs.
According to the report, the officials expressed cautious optimism that, in the next nine to 12 months, they can straighten out the deal's finer details. But they warn that they face long odds.
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Thursday morning that a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia is only a matter of time and is within reach.
"We are at a point in time where the American, Saudi and Israeli interests are coming together - and therefore looking at the report, which spoke of between nine months and a year, is also correct in my eyes. This is exactly the window of time before the US is drawn into an election campaign. And that's why I say that peace with Saudi Arabia is only a matter of time," Cohen told Ynet.
Israel has been for years rumored to have behind-the-scenes ties with Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis have vehemently denied those rumors.
Netanyahu has made clear that his goal is to achieve a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia that would “effectively end the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
However, Saudi officials have repeatedly said that a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital is a prerequisite for Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel.
Biden notably visited Saudi Arabia a year ago, where he announced two agreements considered to be significant steps on the path toward normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia: A deal concerning the removal of multinational forces from the Red Sea islands of Sanafir and Tiran, and the opening of Saudi airspace for all Israeli flights.
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)