Feb 5, 2024 - World

Blinken meets MBS in Saudi Arabia as U.S. pushes for post-war deal

Secretary of State Tony Blinken and MBS in Saudi Arabia on June 7, 2023. Photo: Amer Hilabi/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken and MBS in Saudi Arabia on June 7, 2023. Photo: Amer Hilabi/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in Riyadh on Monday and discussed the war in Gaza, including efforts to end the fighting, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Why it matters: The Biden administration is hoping to use a potential historic peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia as leverage for getting the Israeli government on board with its plan for the day after the war in Gaza, which includes creating a political horizon for the Palestinians.

  • Under the U.S. strategy, the administration is linking normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia to the creation of a pathway for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would ultimately have to decide whether he is willing to take a political hit domestically in order to get a historic normalization deal, U.S. officials say.

Driving the news: In Monday's meeting, Blinken underscored the importance of addressing humanitarian needs in Gaza and preventing further spread of the conflict, Miller said.

  • Miller's statement didn't directly refer to the potential normalization deal but said Blinken discussed with MBS "the importance of building a more integrated and prosperous region."
  • Blinken is expected to visit Israel later this week and discuss the normalization issue with Netanyahu and the members of his war cabinet.

Flashback: During his previous visit to Israel last month, Blinken told Israeli leaders that Saudi Arabia wants to normalize relations with Israel after the Gaza war ends, but it won't agree to any deal if the Israeli government doesn't commit to the principle of a two-state solution.

  • Blinken also made clear that Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries won't get involved in day-after solutions for Gaza — mainly reconstruction — without a path to a future Palestinian state.

Reality check: Netanyahu, who has long opposed a two-state solution, has recently rejected calls for Palestinian sovereignty.

  • His government includes ultranationalists who oppose even small overtures to the Palestinians.

The big picture: Miller said Blinken and MBS also discussed "the urgent need to reduce regional tensions, including a cessation of Houthi attacks undermining both freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and progress on the Yemen peace process."

What to watch: Blinken is expected to visit Qatar and Egypt before arriving in Israel on Wednesday.

Go deeper: State Department reviewing options for possible recognition of Palestinian state

Go deeper