Saudi Arabia has decided to postpone its U.S.-backed plans for normalizing relations with Israel, according to sources familiar with the matter.
This development reflects a significant shift in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy priorities as the conflict escalates between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas.
The ongoing conflict has compelled Saudi Arabia to engage with Iran, marking a notable change in regional dynamics.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held his first phone call with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in an attempt to prevent further escalation of violence in the region.
The sources informed Reuters that there will be a delay in the U.S.-backed talks aimed at normalizing ties with Israel.
These talks were seen as a crucial step for Saudi Arabia to secure a coveted U.S. defense pact in return.
Prior to the outbreak of hostilities instigated by Iran-backed Hamas on October 7th, both Saudi and Israeli leaders had been indicating progress towards a potential deal that could reshape the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia had previously suggested that it would not allow its pursuit of a U.S. defense pact to be derailed, even if Israel did not make significant concessions to the Palestinians in their quest for statehood.
However, sidelining the Palestinian issue risked angering Arab nations in the region, as Arab media outlets began broadcasting images of Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes.
Hamas’s attack on October 7th resulted in the deaths of over 1,300 Israelis, while Israel’s subsequent strikes on Gaza claimed more than 1,500 lives by the following Friday.
The sources indicated that talks cannot continue for the time being, and when discussions do resume, addressing Israeli concessions for Palestinians would need to be a higher priority—a sign that Riyadh has not completely abandoned the idea.
The Saudi government did not respond to requests for comment on this matter.
This shift in Saudi Arabia’s stance underscores the challenges facing Washington in its efforts to strengthen Israel’s integration in a region where the Palestinian cause remains a major concern among Arab nations.
While U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan asserted that normalization efforts were “not on hold,” he noted that the focus was on other pressing issues.
The first source familiar with Saudi thinking mentioned that Washington had urged Riyadh to condemn the Hamas attack, but Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan pushed back. A U.S. source also confirmed this.
Additionally, the regional conflict prompted the Saudi Crown Prince and Iran’s President to engage in their first-ever conversation, following a Chinese-brokered initiative that led to the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the two rivals in April.
Saudi Arabia expressed its commitment to engaging with international and regional parties to de-escalate the ongoing crisis.
Riyadh’s opposition to civilian targeting and the loss of innocent lives in the conflict was emphasized, along with its unwavering support for the Palestinian cause.
Saudi Arabia has also been working to ease tensions in other parts of the Middle East, including seeking an end to the conflict in Yemen, where the kingdom has led a coalition against the Iran-aligned Houthis.
As the situation continues to evolve, the United States remains in close contact with Saudi leaders and is working to engage partners to de-escalate tensions in the region.
The differing visions of Saudi Arabia and Iran for the region have become increasingly apparent in recent weeks, highlighting the complexities of regional geopolitics.