Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) granted an exclusive interview to Fox News that aired Wednesday night. Here are the two most important elements.
"We are getting closer every day," said the Saudi crown prince.
While an agreement to establish diplomatic relations has not yet been reached, MBS dismissed rumors of a halt in discussions on establishing diplomatic relations between his country and Israel.
The issue remains a top priority for American President Joe Biden ahead of the 2024 presidential election, as well as Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu.
Although both parties expressly desire normalization, Saudi Arabia aims to obtain concessions, including on the Palestinian issue. "The Palestinian issue is very important to us. We need to resolve it. And the negotiations are progressing well so far," said MBS.
Saudi Arabia also wants security guarantees from Washington and assistance establishing a civilian nuclear program. At the same time, the Americans are seeking to limit China and Russia's influence in the region, as well as to end the conflict in Yemen.
The Israelis are pushing for formal recognition from Saudi Arabia, without having to concede too much on the Palestinian issue.
Why it's important: This is the first time MBS has publicly addressed the ongoing Israeli normalization negotiations in a televised interview.
"If they get one, we will have to get one too," said MBS when asked what he would do if Iran acquired nuclear weapons.
Negotiations for a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement are at a standstill while the Oct. 18 deadline for the lifting of sanctions is approaching. The Islamic Republic has slowed its uranium enrichment in recent months while negotiations for a prisoner exchange were underway with the United States. However, Tehran and Washington officially insist on separating the two issues.
Today, the focus is on preserving the status quo. The American and Saudi goal is to limit Iran's uranium enrichment to 60 percent, as well as end attacks by pro-Iranian militias on American interests in the Middle East, or even limit Iranian defense exports to Russia.
In exchange, Tehran would not be subjected to additional sanctions while benefiting from some leeway to export more oil despite current sanctions. This would help lower hydrocarbon prices on international markets as production cuts imposed by Saudi Arabia and Russia are contributing to inflation.
One of Saudi Arabia's conditions for reaching a normalization agreement with Israel is to obtain US assistance in developing a civilian nuclear program. Until now, Riyadh has denied any military implications in the nuclear program.
The prospect of a nuclear race is especially concerning for the United States and Israel, as they would lose their qualitative military advantage in the region.
In order to advance the normalization agreement, Washington is proposing solutions that include clear nuclear development restrictions, such as banning uranium enrichment on Saudi soil. This condition still represents a key point of contention, which the Kingdom is unwilling to yield.