United States President Joe Biden has said he believes Hamas carried out its unprecedented attacks on Israel to derail a diplomatic thaw between the country and Saudi Arabia.
Speaking at a campaign fundraiser in Washington on Friday, Biden said Hamas carried out the October 7 attacks in part to disrupt his efforts to normalise Israel-Saudi relations.
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“Guess what? The Saudis wanted to recognise Israel … unite the Middle East,” Biden said, telling donors the Palestinian group knew he was “about to sit down with the Saudis”.
Biden last week told CBS’s 60 Minutes that the prospect of normalisation was “still alive” but would take time, after Saudi officials reportedly paused talks with Israel in the aftermath of Hamas’s October 7 attacks and the subsequent Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
Riyadh has expressed concern about the fate of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been pummelled by Israeli air strikes that Palestinian officials say have killed at least 4,137 people.
Saudi Arabia backed the US-brokered Abraham Accords that saw the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalise ties with Israel in 2020, but has so far not recognised Israel itself.
The Biden administration has pushed for the normalisation of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Washington’s two most powerful allies in the Middle East, and there had been signs of warming ties between the sides in recent months.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Fox News in September that Riyadh was getting closer to normalising ties “every day” but that resolving the Palestinian issue would be crucial to reaching a deal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Biden that a deal was “within reach” during talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month.
Israel and Saudi Arabia were also among about two dozen countries that agreed to work together on a rail and shipping corridor announced by Biden at the G20 summit in India
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies