January 9, 2024 | Flash Brief

Blinken Ties Saudi-Israel Normalization to Palestinian Statehood

January 9, 2024 | Flash Brief

Blinken Ties Saudi-Israel Normalization to Palestinian Statehood

Latest Developments

Saudi-Israel normalization hinges on prospective Palestinian statehood, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on January 8. “There’s a clear interest in the region in pursuing that [normalization],” Blinken remarked. “But it will require that the conflict end in Gaza and it will also clearly require that there be a practical pathway to a Palestinian state.” Conversely, the Abraham Accords, which the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco signed in 2020, do not condition regional progress on Palestinian statehood.

Expert Analysis

“There is a place in the normalization conversation for Saudi Arabia to use its political and economic influence to fundamentally reform the Palestinian Authority and deradicalize both Gaza and the West Bank. There’s no place for pretending the status quo can continue or that Israel should accept insecurity as a precondition for normalization.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“Blinken picked up from where indirect Saudi-Israeli peace talks had stopped on 10/7. As they gear up for peace with Israel, Saudis want to keep the pathway for a Palestinian state open. Whether Palestinians will take this path or not will be on the Palestinians alone.” — Hussain Abdul-Hussain, FDD Research Fellow

“The Abraham Accords separated Palestinian terrorism and intransigence from broader Middle Eastern peace. Blinken’s comments are a step in the wrong direction, allowing the Palestinians a veto on regional integration.” —  David May, FDD Research Manager and Senior Research Analyst

Saudi-Israel Normalization

The Biden administration was working to secure a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel before Hamas drew Israel into war. Yet Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh continue to signal that normalization remains on the table. U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby expressed confidence on October 31 “that there’ll be a path to get back towards normalization and that there is still interest on the Saudi side in pursuing that.” On November 8, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Fox News anchor that Saudi-Israel normalization “will be reality.” Secretary Blinken reported on January 8 that Riyadh’s interest in normalization “is there, it’s real, and it could be transformative.”

Abraham Accords Post-October 7

In the wake of Hamas’s massacre, Israel’s Abraham Accords partners showed a greater readiness than others in the region to acknowledge Hamas’s brutality. On October 8, while other Arab governments refused to name the perpetrator of the October 7 atrocities, the UAE condemned the “attacks by Hamas against Israeli towns and villages near the Gaza Strip.”

Bahrain’s foreign ministry also explicitly condemned Hamas on October 9. On the same day, Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed “expressed solidarity with the State of Israel” in a phone call with Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid. On October 10, Emirati Trade Minister Thani Al Zeyoudi told reporters that the Hamas-Israel war would not impact economic relations between Israel and the UAE. “We don’t mix the economy and trade with politics,” he said.

Saudi Arabia Buys Time for Normalization Talks with America and Israel,” by Andrea Stricker and Anthony Ruggiero

Iran wanted Saudi Arabia to drop Israel – but failed miserably,” by Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Did Hamas just prove the Abraham Accords Right?” by Natalie Ecanow


Arab Politics Gulf States Israel Israel at War Palestinian Politics