Hamas attack aimed to disrupt Saudi-Israel normalization -Biden

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Palestinian Islamist group Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed about 1,400 people aimed to disrupt a potential normalization of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia sought by Riyadh, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday.

Biden suggested Saudi wanted to recognize Israel in the comments he made at a campaign fundraiser.

Saudi Arabia, a Middle East powerhouse and home to Islam’s two holiest shrines, gave its blessing to Gulf neighbors United Arab Emirates and Bahrain establishing relations with Israel in 2020 under the previous U.S. administration of Donald Trump.

Riyadh has not followed suit, saying Palestinian statehood goals should be addressed first.

“One of the reasons Hamas moved on Israel … they knew that I was about to sit down with the Saudis,” Biden said.

“Guess what? The Saudis wanted to recognize Israel.”

The potential normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states was a top priority for Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his June trip to Riyadh, although he acknowledged no progress should be expected imminently.

Blinken told CNN on Oct. 8 that “it wouldn’t be a surprise that part of the motivation (for the attack) may have been to disrupt efforts to bring Saudi Arabia and Israel together.”

Biden told CBS’ 60 Minutes in an interview that aired last Sunday that the prospect of normalization was “still alive, it’s going to take time.”

Israel responded to the Oct. 7 attack by pounding Gaza with air strikes, killing more than 4,000 people, and has said it will act to free hostages taken by Hamas militants while wiping out the group.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose, Kanishka Singh and Costas Pitas; editing by Grant McCool and Lincoln Feast.)


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