The attack on Israel by the Palestinian islamist group Hamas on October 7—which resulted in the deaths of over 1,400 people—was intended to thwart any prospective normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia that Riyadh could have been seeking, according to U.S. President Joe Biden.
At a campaign fundraiser, Biden made comments that seemed to imply Saudi Arabia intended to recognize Israel.
Saudi Arabia, a Middle East powerhouse and home to Islam’s two holiest shrines, gave its blessing to Gulf neighbors United Arab Emirates and Bahrain establishing relations with Israel in 2020 under the previous U.S. administration of Donald Trump.
Riyadh has not followed suit, saying Palestinian statehood goals should be addressed first.
“One of the reasons Hamas moved on Israel … they knew that I was about to sit down with the Saudis,” Biden said.
“Guess what? The Saudis wanted to recognize Israel.”
The potential normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states was a top priority for Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his June trip to Riyadh, although he acknowledged no progress should be expected imminently.
Blinken told CNN on Oct. 8 that “it wouldn’t be a surprise that part of the motivation (for the attack) may have been to disrupt efforts to bring Saudi Arabia and Israel together.”
Biden told CBS’ 60 Minutes in an interview that aired last Sunday that the prospect of normalization was “still alive, it’s going to take time.”
Israel responded to the Oct. 7 attack by pounding Gaza with air strikes, killing more than 4,000 people, and has said it will act to free hostages taken by Hamas militants while wiping out the group.