U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met today with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and Saudi Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah.
While one U.S. official reportedly told The Times of Israel that Blinken "discussed the possibility of Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel," neither the State Department, nor the Saudi Foreign Ministry statement made any mention of normalization discussions. The U.S. State Department Spokesperson's Office released a fact sheet regarding the "Eight Decades of Partnership" between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which also made no mention of such talks.
Blinken discussed issues of regional security through defense agreements, cooperation in resolving regional conflicts, economic collaboration, technology and clean energy cooperation, and educational partnerships, according to a readout attributed to U.S. Spokesperson Matthew Miller.
Before leaving for the Saudi Kingdom on Monday, Blinken spoke to pro-Israel lobby group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that "The United States has a real national security interest in promoting normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia."
In that speech, Blinken affirmed America's commitment to Israel's security, especially regarding the Iranian threat, saying, "America is more secure when Israel is strong."
The U.S. secretary also said the Biden administration "is advancing Israel's security – and our own – in another critical way: By working to deepen Israel's relationship with its neighbors to advance our goal of regional integration and de-escalation."
The Abraham Accords peace agreements that were signed in 2020 are significant to regional integration, creating connections on various levels: government, technology, economy, and health care, according to Blinken, who said the administration is reportedly "working hard behind the scenes, leading with diplomacy to continue the momentum [of the Abraham Accords]."
He also hinted that the White House is looking for real progress in advancing Israeli-Palestinian dialogue before it tries to move substantially towards normalization with Saudi Arabia.
"Integration and normalization efforts are not a substitute for progress between Israelis and Palestinians, nor should they come at its expense," Blinken told AIPAC during his speech. He reminded attendees that the Biden administration is still committed to a two-state solution based on the 1967 boundaries.
Saudi Arabia has previously said that it will not normalize relations with Israel until an independent Palestinian state exists.
Many political analysts continue to express doubts about the viability of a two-state solution.
Speaking at the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York City on Monday, former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat suggested Israel pursue peace with the Palestinians based on "tribal autonomies."
"When you look at all the Arab countries, there's not one successful democratic country in the world, not one. So why do you think the Palestinians will [succeed]?" Barkat said.
"The most successful governance structures in the Arab world are the Emirates, Saudi Arabia — they're tribal-based governance, they're autocracies, very successful autocracies," he added. "And if you look at the Arab world, the concept of tribes is very meaningful. I believe we should apply more autonomies."
This article originally appeared on All Arab News and is reposted with permission.