Security Minister Yoav Gallant, who met on Wednesday with the U.S. coordinator to the Middle East Brett McGurk, presented him with a list of questions presented by Israel’s security officials against the backdrop of talks with Saudi Arabia that could lead to a deal including normalization between the two countries.
The questions mainly touched on security matters concerning Saudi Arabia, specifically the issue of securing nuclear fuel enrichment for civilian purposes, out of an understanding that this is a basic Saudi demand for the deal.
Israeli security officials wanted to understand, among other things, the mechanisms for supervising Saudi nuclear activities, and what guarantees exist that it will not be diverted for military purposes.
The Americans will discuss the questions, and an upcoming meeting will involve the countries’ senior security officials to discuss matters. The Americans presented their perspective on the emerging agreements across various topics, including the diplomatic aspect and the normalization with Israel.
They understand that Israel’s security concerns are crucial both for continuing talks and influencing public opinion in Israel and the United States. Security sources suggest that it’s important for this to happen before Saudi Arabia presents their complete demands and before Israel forms its final opinion toward the deal.
In the meeting, Gallant emphasized the importance of preserving Israel’s qualitative advantage and security agreements associated with normalization with Saudi Arabia. He also thanked the efforts of government coordinator McGurk in front of the Arab state to normalize relations with Israel.
Gallant also met with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf, and the two mainly discussed the Palestinian issue. Leaf stressed the importance of implementing the security cabinet's decision to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and calm tensions, while Gallant talked about the importance of American backing for IDF counterterror operations in the West Bank.
During the meeting, Gallant assessed the IDF's operations in the West Bank against terrorist elements and highlighted that Iran is also an active player in the area, transferring funds and smuggling weapons to terrorists for the purpose of carrying out attacks.
He emphasized that Israel’s security forces will continue to act against terrorists while taking care not to harm any civilian populations. Gallant also expressed his appreciation for the public backing given by the U.S. government to counterterror operations in the West Bank.
In addition, the minister surveyed Iranian actions that serve to undermine regional stability in the Middle East, and made it clear that Israel will be ready to defend itself against any threat or attempt to harm its citizens.
The defense minister’s office said in a statement that "during his meeting with the U.S. coordinator to the Middle East, the two discussed the need to expand the Abraham Accords to other key countries in the region. The minister highlighted the vital security arrangements required to accomplish this and also talked about Iranian actions serving to destabilize the Middle East.”
"The minister emphasized to coordinator McGurk that Israel will act to defend itself against any threat or attempt to harm its citizens," the statement added.
Last week, a senior Israeli official said that contacts between Saudi Arabia and the United States are progressing, following three visits by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to the country. "There’s talk that a peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel will be signed early next year,” the official added.
According to the official, discussions between the Saudis and Americans focus on Iran and defense topics. Apart from defensive capabilities against Tehran, Saudi Arabia is seeking a security pact with the U.S. that requires Senate approval by a two-thirds majority of at least 67 senators.