Countries waiting to see if Trump wins before moving on Israel normalization

October 23, 2020

The White House is attempting to leverage momentum from Israel’s normalization deals with Bahrain and the UAE to get more Arab countries on board before the U.S. election.

Driving the news: President Trump wants Sudan’s removal from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list to be accompanied by a pre-election announcement on Israel.

  • At a minimum, the Trump administration wants Sudan to announce its willingness to end the state of belligerency with Israel and start a process of normalization.
  • That could happen as soon as this week.

Saudi Arabia gave quiet political support to the UAE and Bahrain, and it took a smaller step of its own by beginning to allow Israeli airliners to use its airspace.

  • At least publicly, the Saudi position is that its energies are focused on a resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
  • But if Trump is re-elected, he’ll likely make bringing the Saudis into the normalization process a priority.

Morocco is waiting to see who wins the U.S. election before making any decisions.

  • If Trump wins, it will try to tie normalization with Israel to U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty in occupied Western Sahara.
  • Biden wouldn’t agree to such a deal, making Moroccan recognition of Israel less likely if he wins.

Oman has long-standing unofficial relations with Israel, but the new sultan wants to move slowly for now.

  • Israeli and U.S. officials expect Oman to base its decisions on the results of the election.

Qatar also has a close relationship with Israel, in part because of its cooperation in the Gaza Strip.

  • But while the U.S. would like Qatar to normalize relations with Israel, regional tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain make that a complicated proposition for Israel.

Where things stand: U.S. officials tell me they made sure the implementation of the UAE and Bahrain deals would be well underway before the election, but now feel things are on course and they are less needed in the process.

  • Palestinian leaders continue to condemn any steps from Arab states toward normalization with Israel, and they hope a Biden administration takes office in January with a new set of policies toward the region