The crooked road to a better Middle East

DUBAI–Skeptics raised their eyebrows when Amos Hochstein, the US president’s senior advisor for energy and investment, spoke of his continued hope for Saudi-Israeli normalization despite the horrors of the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and the bloody war that has followed.

“This conflict should be a doubling down on reminding us that if we don’t go towards regional integration, peace, and security, this is the alternative,” Hochstein told me during an interview at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum, held in Dubai alongside the United Nations’ COP28 climate conference. For that reason, he said, the Biden administration is still working not only on Saudi-Israel ties but also on broader regional integration.

On November 18, I called for just that, writing, “There is an immediate need for moderate, modernizing Arab countries and Israel to quietly begin laying the groundwork for a NATO-like collective security organization and European Union-like economic body. These institutions would unlock the region’s potential by countering its relentless cycles of violence.”

That proposition prompted a few emails from readers arguing how those hopes are deeply unrealistic now, when they couldn’t even be achieved before the October 7 attacks.

Hochstein’s response: “The United States has always wanted to see, throughout multiple generations and administrations, a normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.” He added, “I think that not every road is a straight road, and sometimes we have to go in different directions first. But the goal is still the same. And we remain as committed to that goal of regional integration. And it’s not just about Saudi Arabia and Israel. It has to be much broader than that.”

It’s time to connect the dots globally. Before it’s too late, we must build and defend the architecture of the future, whether in Europe (with Ukraine) or in the Middle East. The alternative is to stand by while the forces of the past tear it down.

Frederick Kempe is president and chief executive officer of the Atlantic Council. You can follow him on Twitter @FredKempe.

This edition is part of Frederick Kempe’s Inflection Points Today newsletter, a column of quick-hit insights on a world in transition. To receive this newsletter throughout the week, sign up here.

Further reading

Image: US energy envoy Amos Hochstein speaks at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum in Dubai, December 7, 2023.