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Why Hasn’t Saudi Arabia Officially Joined the BRICS Yet?

Although Saudi Arabia was invited to join the BRICS during the Aug. 22-24, 2023 BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, and they had originally stated their acceptance, the Kingdom is still officially “considering” the invitation. The reason for the unusual delay is thought to have to do with high-stakes U.S.-British maneuvering to pull the Saudis away from the BRICS with a package deal around the Middle East, and thereby get them to stay in the Western camp financially and economically. This political process falls under the rubric of “Saudi-Israel normalization” in media coverage, and it is far from a done deal.

The Times of Israel ran an in-depth story on April 22 based on conversations with three unnamed US officials. They reported that “Saudi Arabia has continued holding high-level discussions with the White House in recent weeks aimed at brokering a normalization agreement with Jerusalem… Significant obstacles remain.” The elements of the deal include: 1) a truce in Gaza, including a hostage deal; 2) Israel would have to “take concrete steps aimed at establishing a pathway to an eventual Palestinian state,” which is a non-starter for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and 3) a major defense agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia would be signed, possibly including some sort of U.S. guarantees that they would allow the Saudis to have a nuclear program (and ensure that Israel doesn’t blow it up).

The article says the biggest obstacle is that Netanyahu has built his entire political career on stopping the establishment of a Palestinian state. “Everyone knows that I am the one who for decades blocked the establishment of a Palestinian state that would endanger our existence,” Netanyahu said in February 2024… Some senior members of the administration conclude that Netanyahu is incapable of making the kinds of concessions necessary… `Key figures in the White House are much more optimistic than many in the State Department that Netanyahu can get to a ‘yes’ on this,’ the US official said, adding that the White House’s view will ultimately be more decisive.”

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