Before Oct. 7, the main discussions about a long-shot normalization deal had taken place between Riyadh and Washington, with the Saudis asking for important security commitments from Washington. But Mr. Blinken’s statements reveal the terms have shifted, marking the first time since talks began in earnest last year that a top American official has explicitly linked Palestinian statehood to normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The prospects for a three-way agreement among those two countries and the United States, floated by the Biden administration early last year, have dimmed because of the war.
Citizens of Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Arab world are incensed at Israel, given the destruction of most of Gaza and the killings of around 23,000 people, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. And many Israelis are reluctant to give the Palestinians greater rights or concede to a Palestinian state, with its own military and arsenal, given the horrors of Oct. 7, when Hamas fighters killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel, most of them civilians, according to Israeli officials.
But Mr. Blinken pressed forward on Tuesday, dangling the potential for normalized ties in an effort to try to get Israel to curtail military operations in Gaza and consider a wide-reaching political solution.
“I look forward to sharing with you some of what I’ve heard from countries around the region,” he said in public remarks to Israel Katz, the foreign minister, before the start of their meeting on Tuesday morning. “I know your own efforts, over many years, to build much better connectivity and integration in the Middle East, and I think there actually are real opportunities there.”
“But we have to get through this very challenging moment and ensure that Oct. 7 can never happen again and work to build a much different, and much better, future,” he added.
Arab leaders are moving forward with their own diplomacy on the war. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, plans to travel to Jordan for a summit on Wednesday with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and King Abdullah II of Jordan to discuss the situation in Gaza, Jordan’s state news agency reported. Mr. Blinken also plans to meet with Mr. Abbas on his trip.
Before flying to Israel on Monday night, Mr. Blinken told reporters in the desert oasis town of Al Ula, Saudi Arabia, that the Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had told him in a meeting there that the Saudis still had “a clear interest” in trying to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel.
But there were at least two conditions for that, Mr. Blinken said: an end to Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, and Israel’s agreeing to take practical steps toward establishing a Palestinian state.