The U.S. administration is weaving together a rotational deal: The Saudis will receive perks; Israel will widen its relations in the Middle East; and, in exchange, Iran and its nuclear program will gain immunity.
I am in favor of normalization with Saudi Arabia. Who isn’t? But there is a price tag for taking this path. The reports in the media flag what Saudi Arabia wants in return — a civilian nuclear power program (at the first stage); apparently, major progress with the Palestinians; and American weapons. As I recall, American weapons were given to Egypt after the peace agreement and also to the United Arab Emirates after the Abraham Accords. It is clear there is a deal here, just as there was with the Moroccans, who made a peace deal and received recognition from the Americans on the Western Sahara issue. This is how peace works. This is not a Walt Disney fantasy, but a deal in every sense, which is being sold as cellophane-wrapped hummus in Damascus for 50 cents and splashing at the Burj al-Khalifa Hotel in Dubai. This is fine; this is how the world works.
However, the payoff in this case is not only perks for Saudi Arabia, but a strategic course. Those who want to use the coupon for normalization are the Americans, and more precisely, the Biden administration, which has the flavor of the Obama administration. Here is where the real dog is buried because American interests in the Middle East do not correspond with the strategic interests of Israel.
This gap is also the main reason for the cold shoulder that President Joe Biden is giving Benjamin Netanyahu. Don’t be confused — this is not judicial reform and not some vague concern over legislation. Israeli democracy is much more vibrant than American democracy. This is an interest that has completely changed since the Trump administration. Even then the Americans wanted to leave the region and the way to do that was via two paths. The first was building the Abraham Accords framework as a coalition of countries ready to magnify their power, including by means of modern American weapons.
The second was to bring the ayatollah down to the ground by means of economic sanctions intended to ensure that if Iran became a nuclear threshold state, it would remain weakened, wretched, poor and undeveloped, just like North Korea. In other words, it will not be a superpower because superpowers are those countries that are strong militarily and economically, like Israel.
This approach changed under Biden. From his perspective, an agreement with Iran is necessary even if it is destructive in regional terms. This is the basic source of tension between Netanyahu and Biden, who, understanding this, has started to develop a sophisticated process by which he will sell a nuclear agreement with Iran to Israel in exchange for developing and broadening the Abraham Accords. That is, normalization with Saudi Arabia and perhaps with other Islamic states; for example, Indonesia.
In fact, Biden and his administration have not only reversed the previous policy toward Iran, but overturned the Abraham Accords by widening them to make them hostage to a new nuclear agreement. He wants to say: We will bring you Saudi Arabia in exchange for an agreement with Iran. This is the big prize that Israel must give to the Americans and, in the face of this, the issue of the Saudi demand for a nuclear program pales in comparison.
For Israel, it should be said, there are not many choices. After it became clear that there will not be enough pilots ready to defend the homeland because some of them no longer define this country in those terms, including Israeli society in general, which is hedonistic and hates risk. It is not built to fight Iran on all fronts from south to north. At best, the deal that Biden is proposing is bad. This deal has a price: Iran will be a superpower in every sense of the word. Israel will have its hands tied and will not be able to attack even if it wants to. Iran’s nuclear program, not Saudi Arabia’s, along with the freeing of its economy, will convert Tehran into a monster much worse than it is today. The only thing that can save Israel from this scenario is an Iranian kick in the pants.