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Israeli Deputy Says Normalization with Saudis Does Not Appear Imminent

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avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud attends a news conference at the Arab Gulf Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 9, 2022. Photo: REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

A top Israeli lawmaker said on Sunday that any forging of relations with Saudi Arabia did not appear imminent, citing what he described as sticking points in negotiations currently being held between Riyadh and U.S. mediators.

U.S. President Joe Biden, having dispatched his national security adviser to Saudi Arabia to discuss a possible normalization deal with Israel that he deems a policy priority, said on Friday that “there’s a rapprochement maybe under way.”

The idea has been under discussion since the Saudis gave their quiet assent to Gulf neighbors United Arab Emirates and Bahrain establishing ties with Israel in 2020. But Riyadh has not followed suit, saying Palestinian demands must first be met.

“I think it’s too early to talk about a deal being in the works,” Yuli Edelstein, head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and a senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, told Israel’s Army Radio.

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He brushed off the possibility that the impasse between Netanyahu’s hard-right government and the statehood goals of the politically divided Palestinians was the main obstacle.

“How shall I put this delicately? There are clauses that are far more important or problematic than such-and-such declarations in the Palestinian realm,” he said.

“Most of the Saudi discourse is with the Americans, and not with us,” he added, saying that when it came to Riyadh’s demands of Washington, “there are some things we can live with better, and some things we can live with less well.”

Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, asked by reporters as he entered the weekly cabinet meeting whether there would be progress in the Saudi talks, said: “I hope so.”

Saudi Arabia seeks U.S. cooperation in establishing a civilian nuclear program on its soil. U.S. and Israeli media have also reported Saudi efforts to upgrade U.S. defense imports.

Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel will build a 100 billion shekel ($27 billion) rail expansion that will connect its outlying areas to metropolitan Tel Aviv and, in the future, could provide overland links to Saudi Arabia.

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