WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Friday he believes Hamas was motivated in part to attack Israel by a desire to prevent that country from normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia.
“One of the reasons… Hamas moved toward Israel is because they knew I was about to sit down with the Saudis,” Biden said at a campaign fundraiser. The US President indicated that he believed Hamas militants launched a deadly attack on October 7, because “guess what? The Saudis wanted to recognize Israel” and were on the cusp of being able to do so formally.
Jerusalem and Riyadh have been steadily moving closer to normalization, as Biden works to help bring the two countries closer together, announcing plans in September at the G20 summit in India to enter into a partnership on the shipping corridor.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Biden on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September and told him: “I believe that under your leadership, Mr. President, we can achieve a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia.”
The Saudis were insisting on expanded protection and rights for Palestinian interests as part of any broader agreement with Israel. The agreement would have been a diplomatic achievement that could have enabled broader recognition of Israel by other Muslim-majority Arab countries that have largely opposed Israel since its establishment 75 years ago in territories where Palestinians have long resided.
But the talks stalled after Hamas militants from the besieged Gaza Strip, where Palestinians live, stormed nearby Israeli towns.
The October 7 attack coincided with a major Jewish holiday. This led to Israel launching retaliatory air strikes that left the world on edge as the United States tried to prevent the war from expanding, in which 1,400 Israelis and 4,137 Palestinians were killed. Hamas also took more than 200 people hostage after the initial attack.
The normalization campaign began during the administration of former President Donald Trump and was described as the Abraham Accords. It is an ambitious effort to reshape the region and strengthen Israel’s standing in historic ways. But critics have warned that it ignores previous Palestinian demands for statehood.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said shortly after the Hamas attacks that the militant group’s leadership may have been motivated in part by a desire to thwart US efforts to establish diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Such an agreement between Jerusalem and Riyadh would be a defining accomplishment for the legacy of Biden, Netanyahu, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
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