The AtlanticThe Atlantic

The Israeli-Saudi deal had better be a good one

By Andrew Exum

10 Aug 2023 · 4 min read

informed Summary

  1. Israeli and American officials have hinted at a potential deal to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. That could be a significant diplomatic achievement. However, the U.S. should be cautious about what constitutes a "win" and shouldn't commit to an increased presence in the region, Andrew Exum writes in The Atlantic.

Over the past several weeks, Israeli and American officials have teased a possible deal to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Such an agreement has the potential to be a diplomatic triumph: Successive U.S. administrations, going back decades and from both parties, have considered the security of both Israel and the Arabian Peninsula to be vital interests that Americans would fight and die for if necessary. A deal that advances both objectives by normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia would be—should be—greeted with much fanfare and near-universal approval in Washington.

Precisely because they will come under pressure to celebrate any deal that’s announced, however, U.S. policy makers need to be clear about what is and is not a “win.” Congress in particular should be prepared to ask hard questions about any deal. A deal that commits the United States to an undiminished or even a growing presence in the region, whether in the form of troop numbers or policy attention, is a bad deal. So is one that rests on any Saudi motive other than a genuine desire to normalize relations with Israel.

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