In an article published in “The New York Times” on July 27th, Thomas L. Friedman said that U.S. President Joe Biden is considering a major Middle East Agreement. According to Friedman’s report, the agreement envisions establishing a permanent and official diplomatic relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia. In pursuit of this goal, Biden sent National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to Jeddah to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman during his trip to Saudi Arabia that began on Thursday. Biden’s Middle East Special Envoy Brett McGurk and Senior Advisor for Energy and Infrastructure Amos Hochstein are also accompanying him on the trip.
In Biden’s plan, alongside comprehensive security guarantees for Saudi Arabia, there is also the provision for access to nuclear technology. According to Friedman, the agreement is expected to restrict Saudi-China relations and will be a game-changer even larger than the “Camp David Accords” between the Arab world and Israel. The “Camp David Accords” were signed between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1978 after days of secret negotiations under the auspices of the United States. In exchange for this agreement, which the Palestinians consider a “betrayal,” the U.S. provides Egypt with $1.3 billion annually.
Friedman suggests that for the agreement to materialize, the Netanyahu government must offer meaningful concessions to the Palestinians. However, the Netanyahu government is pursuing the annexation of the “West Bank.” On the other hand, the Biden administration is critical of Netanyahu’s so-called judicial reforms that have caused severe political upheaval in Israel. Biden hosted Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the White House but did not invite Netanyahu, who was in office until December. According to information reported by the American media, the Israeli side says that Netanyahu may meet with Biden at the White House sometime this year, but the details of the meeting remain uncertain. It’s worth noting that Netanyahu had a good relationship with former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Similarly, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Biden is not what it used to be, as the Saudis had closer ties with Trump. Experts believe that Riyadh’s rapprochement with China is one of the reasons for this. Additionally, in March, China’s role as a mediator in re-establishing diplomatic relations between Riyadh and Tehran caused concern for the U.S. Now, Beijing has declared its potential role as a mediator between Israel and Palestine. The timing of Biden’s plan regarding Israel and Saudi Arabia seems significant in light of the “China influence.” It appears that the Biden administration is willing to take steps on many issues that the Saudis previously demanded but did not receive a positive response to, possibly due to the influence of China.
The U.S. wants to back China into a corner, while Beijing is trying to break free from the American grip through diplomatic efforts to expand its sphere of influence. China’s mediation attempts in the Middle East, where it obtains nearly half of its oil supply, are making the U.S. uneasy.
The U.S. shifting its focus from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region due to “China” also disturbs Israel. However, Israel sees China’s presence in the Middle East as somewhat positive. According to a news report in June by the Axios news site, Netanyahu gave a secret briefing to members of the “Foreign Affairs” and “Defense” Committees in the Israeli Knesset. The members asked Netanyahu about the implications of China’s involvement in the Saudi-Iran agreement and its efforts to take a more active role in the region for Israel. Netanyahu responded that China’s intervention in the Middle East could have beneficial results for Israel and could pressure the U.S. to stay in the region.
As part of the “new Cold War” against China, the U.S. is also engaged in a “technological war” and is naturally concerned about technological cooperation between Israel and China. The Biden administration has warned Israel to avoid collaboration with China in sensitive areas for the U.S. While Israel has slowed down cooperation in some areas, collaboration continues in trade, health, and innovation.
Meanwhile, towards the end of the year, the annual meeting of the “China-Israel Innovation Collaboration Joint Committee” will be held in Beijing. Netanyahu has been invited to the meeting in Beijing. According to China hawks in the U.S., Netanyahu’s visit to Beijing would be seen as poking America’s eye. However, it remains uncertain whether Netanyahu will ultimately go to Beijing.