According to two sources familiar with Riyadh’s thinking, Saudi Arabia is postponing U.S.-backed plans to normalize relations with Israel, signaling a swift reconsideration of its foreign policy goals as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas intensifies.
The kingdom’s engagement with Iran has also been prompted by the crisis. As Riyadh strives to stop a broader increase in violence across the region, the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the first time.
The two sources told Reuters there would be a delay in the U.S.-backed talks on normalisation with Israel that was a key step for the kingdom to secure what Riyadh considers the real prize of a U.S. defence pact in exchange.
Until Iran-backed Hamas sparked a war on Oct. 7 by launching a devastating attack on Israel, both Israeli and Saudi leaders had been saying they were moving steadily towards a deal that could have reshaped the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam and home to its two holiest sites, had until the latest conflict indicated it would not allow its pursuit of a U.S. defence pact be derailed even if Israel did not offer significant concessions to the Palestinians in the their bid for statehood, sources had previously said.
But an approach that sidelined Palestinians would risk angering Arabs around the region, as Arab news outlets broadcast images of Palestinians killed in Israeli retaliatory airstrikes.