Updated Apr 24, 2024 - World

Blinken to visit Saudi Arabia and Israel next week

Blinken and MBS

Blinken meets with MBS in June 2023. Photo: Amer Hilabi/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken is planning to travel to Saudi Arabia and Israel next week after returning from his trip to China, two U.S. officials and and an Arab official told Axios.

Why it matters: Blinken is expected to participate at a special meeting of the World Economic Forum that will take place in Riyadh on April 28-29, the sources said.

  • He's expected to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and other leaders from the region.
  • The Biden administration continues to work toward a potential mega-deal that could pave the way for Saudi normalization with Israel, but most U.S. officials who work on the issue view it as a pipe dream.

What to watch: Blinken will arrive in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, before traveling to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials, according to a U.S. official.

  • Blinken is also considering visiting Egypt as part of the trip.
  • The State Department declined to comment.

Driving the news: White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan postponed a planned trip to Saudi Arabia three weeks ago after cracking his rib.

  • Sullivan was expected to meet with MBS to discuss a draft U.S.-Saudi defense treaty and understandings related to U.S. support for a Saudi civilian nuclear program, which officials hope could pave the way for normalization with Israel.
  • U.S. officials hope to reach a bilateral agreement with the Saudis and potentially present it to Netanyahu, whose side of the deal would include committing to a path toward a two-state solution.
  • Netanyahu would then face a choice: If he agrees, he could broke a historic peace deal with Saudi Arabia. If he says no, he could be exposed as a rejectionist and lose whatever U.S. support he still has left.

Reality check: With the Israel-Hamas war ongoing and the U.S. presidential election just seven months away, White House and State Department officials admit there's a very slim chance they can pull off the historic peace agreement.

  • Obstacles to the mega-deal include the war in Gaza, Netanyahu's dependence on his radical right-wing coalition partners, and U.S. domestic politics.
  • The Saudis have made clear that in order to move forward on normalization with Israel, the war in Gaza must end and the Israeli government must commit to an irreversible path for a two-state solution.
  • Netanyahu doesn't seem to be moving toward ending the war. And he not only opposes a two-state solution — he rejects the mere idea of allowing the Palestinian Authority to have a role in governing Gaza after the war.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details about Blinken's travel plans.

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