U.S. President Joe Biden said Hamas attacked Israel in part to stymie its efforts to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, his most illuminating comments yet on the impetus for the crisis in the Middle East.

"One of the reasons why they acted like they did, why Hamas moved on Israel, is because they knew I was about to sit down with the Saudis,” Biden said on Friday at a campaign fundraiser in Washington. "Because the Saudis wanted to recognize Israel and that would in fact unite the Middle East.”

Under Biden, the U.S. and Saudis were working on a framework for the kingdom to recognize Israel in exchange for U.S. security guarantees. Publicly, administration officials sought to play down talk of a breakthrough as the talks advanced, but Biden was keen on the initiative and in July sent national security adviser Jake Sullivan to the kingdom.