“Saudis Agree with US on Path to Normalize Kingdom’s Ties with Israel”
—A headline from the Wall Street Journal last week, on an article claiming that the basic contours of a peace plan between Saudi Arabia and Israel had been agreed upon
“I saw that report. I think it vastly overstated the reality of the situation.”
—US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, responding to a question about the Wall Street Journal report
Ever want to be friends with someone but he just seems to keep pushing you off? The last time you experienced that was probably in elementary school. But the State of Israel seems to be in that same situation in regard to Saudi Arabia, with the US negotiating with the Saudis to befriend the Israelis and the Saudis seeming to drag their feet—or worse.
Part of the question has been what the Saudis might get from such a deal. The relationship with Israel does not seem to be enough. Instead, they have asked for help with a domestic nuclear program and also for the US to put a defense pact with the kingdom in place.
Meanwhile, the question of a Saudi-Israeli pact—and of a Saudi nuclear program—has become a matter of internal Israeli politics.
What do the Saudis want in return for a peace deal?
The requirements that the Saudis have aren’t clear, and the only thing that seems to be clear is that it may take a while for those requirements to be hammered out.
However, there were at least three things that have been mentioned in reporting on the negotiations.
First is US help in creating a civilian nuclear program. That program would be focused solely on creating nuclear reactors capable of providing energy. However, it’s fairly clear that the Saudis aren’t especially worried about energy issues. Instead, having a nuclear program would allow them to counter the Iranian nuclear program, both rhetorically and practically. Even though Saudi Arabia ostensibly would not be producing nuclear weapons, nuclear reactors that produce civilian power can be used to create material for nuclear weapons.
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