The U.S. president was forced to bite the bullet in Jeddah. Pragmatism took precedence over his ideological convictions.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s trip to Jeddah can be viewed as bad news from three perspectives: from a Palestinian one, an Iranian one and a human rights one. However, on a pragmatic level, it was the right move.
The fact that Saudi Arabia of all countries has agreed to closer relations with Israel must be bitter for the Palestinians. After all, former Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah was the one who 20 years ago proposed a peace initiative aimed at ending the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole. All or nothing. However, now Riyadh is one of a number of Arab countries to extend a hand to Israel without taking the occupation into consideration.
In actual fact, the Palestinians can only gain. The Palestinian Liberation Organization can count on Riyadh’s backing in future peace talks. And the influence of an ally is always larger than that of a state with which you do not have an agreement. Israel is understandably pleased. Prior to Biden’s trip, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman opened the country’s airspace.
This reduces the travel time between Tel Aviv and the Far East, and the air force should also be able to determine new, viable routes to be used in case of emergency for what is referred to as a preemptive attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. The principle followed is: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. This applies to Saudi Arabia’s attitude toward Israel and Iran. If, on the other hand, the Saudis turn their attention to Ramallah, positions will shift. Israel will then once again become the enemy of their friend.
Even before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, there were good reasons not to maintain any contact with Riyadh. Public beheadings, whippings, amputations, large-scale discrimination against women, the war in Yemen. Biden once promised to make Saudi Arabia a pariah state, but the world is not black and white, and anyone who wants to exert influence cannot afford a boycott.