Only ‘handful of issues’ stopping Saudi-Israel peace deal says US Secretary of State

Anthony Blinken met with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman today


Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jeddah on March 20, 2024. (Photo by EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

(JNS) The Saudi-Israel normalisation deal is nearly completed and is only being held up by a ‘handful of issues’ according to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

A senior State Department official traveling with Blinken on his Middle East trip told the Associated Press that Blinken and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman talked about the deal as well as a potential ceasefire in Gaza.

The potential normalisation would reportedly include US defense guarantees and assistance in building a domestic civilian nuclear program for the kingdom. Saudi Arabia would normalize relations with Israel in exchange for a pathway to a Palestinian state.

Blinken was in Cairo on Thursday, where he was set to meet with Arab foreign ministers to discuss broader security guarantees for Israel, as part of the larger deal with Saudi Arabia. The diplomats are also expected to discuss plans for Arab countries to play a role in the reconstruction and governance of Gaza after Israel defeats Hamas in the current war.

The top American diplomat will visit Israel on Friday to discuss the ceasefire negotiations, the release of the hostages held in Gaza, American opposition to the Rafah military operation that the IDF is preparing to undertake and increasing humanitarian aid into the Strip.

It will be Blinken’s eighth visit to Israel since the start of the war on October 7.

A ceasefire deal between Israel and the Hamas terrorist group is “getting closer,” Blinken said on Wednesday, adding: “I think the gaps are narrowing, and I think an agreement is very much possible. We worked very hard with Qatar, with Egypt and with Israel to put a strong proposal on the table. We did that; Hamas wouldn’t accept it. They came back with other requests, other demands,” Blinken told Christiane Baissary of the Saudi-based Al Hadath newspaper, according to a State Department transcript of the interview.

“The negotiators are working on that right now. But I believe it’s very much doable, and it’s very much necessary,” he added.

An Israeli delegation led by Mossad Director David Barnea departed for Doha on Monday afternoon for another round of talks.

Nevertheless, Jerusalem remains pessimistic that an agreement can be reached.

Last week, Netanyahu called the latest Hamas demands “absurd,” but still agreed to send negotiators to Qatar.

On Wednesday, Blinken confirmed that the Biden administration was circulating a draft U.N. Security Council resolution “pressing for an immediate ceasefire tied to the release of hostages.”

Hamas captured 253 hostages during its invasion of southern Israel on October 7, 134 of whom are still being held by the terrorist group.

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