Protecting Saudi From Israel
Israel has recently decided to increase its number of official statements supporting closer relations with Saudi Arabia. As the West and Iran struck their nuclear deal, Israeli media leaks on secret meetings between representatives from the two countries intensified, prompting the Arab press to treat Riyadh and Tel Aviv as allies.
The Saudi-Lebanese media tycoon Waleed bin Talal only helped to reinforce this image by saying, “The kingdom, along with other Arab and Sunni Muslim countries, supports an Israeli attack on Iran to destroy its nuclear program.” This begs the question: Is it in the interest of Arabs to accuse Saudi of having an alliance with Israel?
There is very little evidence in the kingdom, officially and on the popular level, of any sentiment in favor of establishing ties with the Zionist state. One can only imagine the amount of US pressure Riyadh was subjected to after the invasion of Iraq and the September 11 attacks to open up to Israel.
So let us agree that there is no love lost between Saudi and Israel, but the Gulf monarchy is deeply antagonistic to Iran and fears Tehran’s regional influence. Add to that Western media analysis suggesting that the region is undergoing a shift in alliances, in which the US and Iran could return to their strategic partnership from the days of the Shah.
Undoubtedly, there is a meeting of interests between Riyadh and Tel Aviv in Syria, where both want the undoing of the Bashar al-Assad regime and its regional allies, Hezbollah and Iran. “It is our hope that Israel and Saudi initiate positive relations,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is recently reported to have said, adding, “We have common interests in the economy and in regional politics.”
It appears that it is in the interest of Israel to publicly declare improving ties with Saudi Arabia, given the number of official statements and media leaks about the matter. For Tel Aviv, this is not only useful against Hezbollah and Iran, but Israel hopes that this will give it Arab cover to sign a peace agreement that is unfavorable to the Palestinians.
All indications suggest that, sooner or later, there will be a Saudi-Iranian summit, despite the tensions that exist today. Riyadh is in no rush for such a meeting, given its relatively weak position at this juncture. Tehran, too, is in no hurry – other Gulf nations are lining up to visit Iran, as was the case with the Emirates recently.
Rather than adopt Israel’s statements and leaks, it is more important that the Arabs protect Saudi from Zionist influence, perhaps by advising the kingdom to make adjustments in its foreign relations, particularly toward Syria and Iran. And in fact, reports suggest that there are active attempts by mediators to help mend fences between these countries, with many obstacles still preventing any breakthrough in the near future.