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In the spring of 2023, the Biden administration began promoting an American initiative to normalise ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The deal would be part of a “grand bargain” between Saudi Arabia and the United States that would provide the Saudis with greater security and defense co-operation, and perhaps even an American security guarantee. The obstacles to such a grand bargain are considerable.

The Biden administration would have to secure bipartisan support in the senate for a security pact, nuclear co-operation, and major arms sales to Saudi Arabia. It would also have to secure unprecedented concessions to the Palestinians from Israel, which would likely require Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to form a new governing coalition while Israel is in the midst of a polarising political crisis. The Saudis, for their part, would have to risk alienating the biggest customer for Saudi oil (China); withdraw from the war in Yemen, just as separatist violence in the south becomes a real possibility; and, make concessions to the US on oil production that could have significant repercussions for the stability of the Saudi budget and Mohammed bin Salman’s development plans.

This lecture will situate these issues in the broader regional and global contexts, and try to assess how this deal might be transformational.


Dr Brandon Friedman, The Moshe Dayan Center (MDC) for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University


Faisal J. Abbas, "Is Saudi Normalization with Israel Possible?," Arab News, July 29, 2023. The Arabic text was published in Lebanon al-Nahar and Egypt's al-Masry al-Youm on July 30 and July 31, 2023, respectively, see, here and here [Arabic].

Ben Caspit, "For Israel, Normalization with Saudi Arabia not impossible," al-Monitor, May 16, 2023.

Eric Brewer and Henry Rome, "Biden's Iran Gamble," Foreign Affairs, June 9, 2023.

Catherine Cleveland and David Pollock, "Palestinians Surprisingly Split on Saudi-Israel Normalization," Fikra Forum, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, WINEP, August 17, 2023.

Muhannad Mustafa, "Normalization of Relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel: Intentions and Obstacles [Arabic]," Madar: The Palestinian Center for Israeli Studies, June 18, 2023.

Bilal Y. Saab, "Why Washington Should Say No to Riyadh,", March 21, 2023.

Event details

Council Room
Strand Building
Strand Campus, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS