Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed normalizing ties with Saudi Arabia in talks with visiting White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Thursday, his office said.
Netanyahu, who returned to power last month with the formation of a new government, was also at the helm in 2020 when Israel established ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco as part of the Abraham Accords.
The Israeli premier has repeatedly expressed his desire to see Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, join the list.
In their talks, Netanyahu and Sullivan discussed “measures to deepen the Abraham Accords and expand the cycle of peace, with an emphasis on a breakthrough with Saudi,” the Israeli leader’s office said in a statement.
They also discussed joint efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program and its regional activities, with Netanyahu thanking his American guest for President Joe Biden’s commitment to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear arms, the statement said.
“You come at a special time because we have acute challenges to our security and vast opportunities for peace,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks relayed by his office.
“I am convinced that by working together we can both meet the challenges and realize the opportunities,” he said. “That’s something that bolsters our extraordinary alliance but also can change the region and change history.”
The White House said that Sullivan reiterated the US pledge to “ensure Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon”.
Netanyahu and Sullivan “also discussed Ukraine, as well as the burgeoning defense partnership between Russia and Iran and its implications for security in the Middle East,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
Touching on an area where the new hardline Israeli government and the Biden administration do not see eye to eye, Sullivan said he opposed policies endangering the “viability” of a future Palestinian state, according to the statement.
Sullivan likewise “underscored the urgency of avoiding unilateral steps by any party that could inflame tensions on the ground, with special attention to maintaining the historic status quo with respect to the holy places in Jerusalem.”
Sullivan’s visit, the first by a senior US official since Netanyahu’s new government was sworn in, also saw him meet President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday for talks about “ways to deepen the strategic cooperation”, Herzog’s office said.
Before speaking with Netanyahu on Thursday, Sullivan had met with the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, David Barnea, and Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.
Hanegbi and Sullivan also held a video call with their Emirati and Bahraini counterparts, with the four “committing to enhancing the Abraham Accords”, Netanyahu’s office said.