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Biden Administration Is Talking to Saudi Arabia

Yesterday, we had an item about a dispute over yeshiva students in Israel, and how the question of whether or not to draft those students might lead to the collapse of the Netanyahu coalition, and the fall of the current Israeli government.

Reader J.K. in Short Hills, NJ wrote in to add to that item. We thought we would pass this along while the item is still fresh in the memory:

In your what-if exercise that leads to a possible peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, your logic falls down thanks to one small omission. You imply that Netanyahu—whose coalition government with the far right and ultra-Orthodox is admittedly a major thorn in the peace process—is the primary obstacle to a two-state solution. As I wrote in October, Hamas has only two goals: killing Jews and maintaining power over the Palestinian Authority. They achieved the former on October 7 and currently are wildly popular among the Palestinians thanks to their punching the supposed bully in the mouth. Their removal from power is the first prerequisite for any lasting peace deal. Whether Netanyahu is ousted is irrelevant to that part of the calculus.

Moreover, more moderate Palestinians have shown no inclination to compromise when a deal has been on the table at various times from 1948-2008. In 2000, President Clinton, according to his memoirs, wrote that the offer from Israel to Arafat at Camp David was "so good, I couldn't believe anyone would be foolish enough to let it go." Finally, one convenient fact that is often omitted when discussing Palestinian statehood is that Jordan controlled the West Bank, which included all of East Jerusalem, and Egypt ruled Gaza from 1948-1967, yet there was no world outcry for the Palestinians to reclaim the territory. In theory, it should have been far easier to do so than today. Only when Israel captured the land in a defensive war in 1967 did seemingly everyone cry foul.

Thanks for your additions, J.K.

Perhaps in response to the developments in Israel, or perhaps in response to the concerns laid out by J.K., or perhaps due to both, the Biden administration is working feverishly on the diplomatic front right now, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken visiting Saudi Arabia to talk to the leadership there about a potential peace process.

The Biden administration is reportedly trying to achieve two things, both of which would be pretty big deals if they came to pass. The first is normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The second is to make clear to all players involved (e.g., Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority) that all must accede to, and honor a two-state solution as part of a permanent peace.

As we have pointed out many times, we are not at all expert in this particular area. And needless to say, there has been much talk about various diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East since the 1960s, with relatively little of that talk coming to fruition. So, maybe Blinken is wasting his time in Saudi Arabia right now. However, it strikes us as also possible that the U.S./NATO/Israel vs. Russia/China/the Arab states might have been something of a stalemate situation, and that weakening international and American support for the Israelis could shake up the status quo and lead to, well, a new status quo. If so, it would hardly be the first time in history that happened. Also, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, MBS, is a young guy (38), and certainly open to new approaches that his 88-year-old father, King Salman, might have rejected out of hand. (Z)

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