The long read: After decades of hatred, a shared animosity of Iran and a mutual fondness for Trump is wreaking Israels secret been linked to Gulf kingdoms out into the open

In mid-February 2019, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, winged to Warsaw for a highly unusual discussion. Under the auspices of the US vice-president, Mike Pence, he convened the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and two other Gulf shall include an indication that have no diplomatic ties with Israel. The major items on the agenda was containing Iran. No Palestinians represented here. Most of the existing links between Israel and the Gulf have been kept secret- but these talks were not. In information, Netanyahu’s office leaked a video of a closed session, humiliating the Arab participants.

The meeting publicly showcased the striking reality that Israel, as Netanyahu was so keen to advertise, is winning acceptance of a kind from the wealthiest countries in the Arab world- even as the prospects for resolving the longstanding Palestinian issue are at an all-time low-grade. This unprecedented reconciliation has been driven chiefly by a shared antagonism towards Iran, and by the disorderly new plans of Donald Trump.

Hostility to Israel has been a characterizing boast of the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East since Israel’s creation in 1948 and the expulsion or flight of more than 700,000 Palestinians- which Arabs call the Nakba, or catastrophe- that accompanied it. Still, over the years, pan-Arab solidarity and boycotts of the “Zionist entity” have largely faded away. The last Arab-Israeli war was in 1973. Israel’s peace conventions with Egypt and Jordan are unpopular, but have lasted decades. The 1993 Oslo agreement among Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation( PLO) was an historic- if ultimately disappointing- accomplishment. And what is happening now with the Gulf territories is a hugely important shift.

Evidence is attaching of increasingly close ties between Israel and five of the six of the Gulf Cooperation Council( GCC)- none of which have formal its relationship with the Jewish territory. Trump highlighted this accelerating change on his firstly foreign trip as chairwoman– to the Saudi capital Riyadh- by running on directly afterwards to Tel Aviv. Hopes for Saudi help with his much-hyped” spate of the century” to point the Israel-Palestine conflict have faded since then. Yet Netanyahu is seeking to normalise relations with Saudi Arabia. And there has even been surmise about a public meeting between him and Mohammed bin Salman( MBS ), the Saudi crown prince who was widely blamed for the brutal assassinate of reporter Jamal Khashoggi last October. That would be a sensational- and highly controversial- instant, which is why Saudis are signalling madly “that its not” going to happen. Still, the meeting with Netanyahu in Warsaw went far beyond anything that has taken place before. The abnormal is becoming normal.

The original impetus for these developing relationships between Israel and the Gulf nations was a reciprocal distaste for Barack Obama. In the early years of the Arab spring, he infuriated the Saudis and the UAE, and alarmed Israel, by vacating Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak, and then singer support for the favourite insurgency in Syria and called for Bashar al-Assad to resign. In 2015, when the US-led nuclear agreement was signed with Iran, it was vehemently was rejected by Israel and most Gulf countries. That September, Russia’s armed intervention in Syria marked the beginning of the end of the crisis for Assad. Tehran’s steadfast support for its ally in Damascus, and its endorse of Hezbollah in Lebanon- Iran’s” axis of resist”- was considered with identical abhorrence in Jerusalem, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

” The Obama administration was disliked by Saudi Arabia and Israel because it shunned them both ,” a elderly Saudi told me. A veteran Israeli official constituted the same dispute:” There was a sense that we were looking at an American’ s administration that wasn’t as had undertaken to America’s traditional sidekicks. We had to prepare common induce because there was a sense of being left to fend for ourselves. Unwittingly, Obama contributed very significantly to the buildup of relations between us and the UAE and the Saudis .”

Netanyahu’s game plan is to promote relations with the Gulf and beyond, and thus to marginalise and push the Palestinians.” What happens with Arab regimes has never happened in its own history, even when we signed peace deal ,” is his carefully smoothed formula.” Cooperation in different ways and at different levels isn’t inevitably visible above the surface, but what is below the surface is far greater than at any other age .” As Dore Gold, Netanyahu’s former national defence consultant, elaborated with a smile, these messages are” very carefully drafted to give a positive message without running the beans .”

The priority for the Saudis and their allies is balk Iran, which in the past few years has consolidated the same position in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, where it backs the Houthi rebels. MBS notoriously described Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, as a” brand-new Hitler “. Netanyahu equated Obama’s nuclear cope to the Munich agreement of 1938- and after Trump vacated it last summer, Netanyahu signalled Israel’s readiness to assembled an” international bloc” against Tehran.” We were raised to see Israel as an opponent that occupied Arab countries ,” debates an Emirati analyst.” The reality now is that the Israelis are there whether you like it or not. We have common interests with them- and it’s about Iran, about sakes , not passions .”

There is also a pragmatic identification in Gulf uppercases of the benefits of security, technical and economic links with an unassailably potent Israel- not only for their own purpose, but likewise because of the US approval that returns. Israel determines ties with the Gulf as a significant method of demonstrating its own influence in Washington.” It is doubtful whether the scope of( US) aid to Arab countries could have been kept without the support of Aipac( the central pro-Israel hallway group) and Jewish organisations ,” hints Eran Lerman, former deputy chief of Israel’s National Security Council.

None of this means that the Palestinian issue has gone away. “Normalisation”( of its relationship with Israel) remains a dirty word of billions of Arabs, which is why despotic Gulf leads dread popular opposition to their brand-new cosiness with Netanyahu. Formally, every GCC state remains committed to the Arabpeaceinitiative of 2002, which offers recognition of Israel in return for a Palestinian regime in its national territory occupied in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its uppercase. But even this is far more than Netanyahu will ever countenanced: he will consider merely a Palestinian “state-minus”, and openly refuses to destroy the illegal settlements that partition the West Bank into disconnected enclaves. Netanyahu’s numerous Israeli pundits- angry over the corruption bills he is facing as next month’s elections approach- have complained “that hes” exaggerating both the Iranian threat and the importance of his Gulf diplomacy, while altogether neglecting the existential crisis in Israel’s own backyard- its ongoing had failed to make peace with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s meeting with the Saudis and Emiratis in Warsaw was not the first drastic public view of this changing Middle Eastern actuality. Last-place October, the Israeli prime minister held talks in Muscat, the capital city of Oman, with its ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The following date, his Likud party colleague, the culture and sports minister Miri Regev, was seeing Abu Dhabi in the UAE, while at the same duration Israeli players were competing in Doha in nearby Qatar.

News of Netanyahu’s Muscat trip included video footage of his talks in the ornate Bait al-Baraka palace. The “ministers “, in a off-color clothing and tie-up, was experienced exchanging remarks with the sultan, in a turban and traditional lily-white dishdasha garb. The Israeli leader’s partner, Sara, was there with other members of his delegating, including an stolid middle-aged boy announced Yossi Cohen, head of the Mossad intelligence service.

During Regev’s stay in Abu Dhabi, where Israel’s top judo squad was participating in a tournament, she bawled on camera as Hatikvah, Israel’s national chant( the Hebrew statements are about hankering for Zion) was played. Later she toured the opulent Sheikh Zayed mosque, celebrating the UAE’s founder, a loyal booster of the Palestinian campaign. These two Israeli ministerial his trip to Gulf uppercases passed a strong raise to the notion of dramatic changes in the region’s alliances.

But as information of Netanyahu’s visit to Oman developed, there was a reminder of the risks of a reaction. Six Palestinians were killed and 180 disabled by Israeli army snipers on the frontiers of the Gaza Strip, where weekly demonstrations now challenge the blockade imposed on its national territory by Israel since 2007.

Palestinian protesters on the boundaries between Israel and the Gaza Strip, October 2018. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/ EPA

” Our[ Gulf] Arab friends … have stabbed us in the front and the back, abandoning us politically while espousing Israel ,” deplored the Palestinian activist Kamel Hawwash.” Israeli pennants could soon be running in the skies of some Gulf positions, while they pressure the Palestinian leadership into accepting a’ agreement’ spate that is unacceptable .” He described” sickening personas of a beam … Netanyahu- the leader of an dictatorial apartheid regime, with bucketloads of Palestinian and other Arab blood on his hands- being welcomed … by the ailing sultan of Oman .”

Netanyahu was not, in fact, the first Israeli leader to call Muscat. The Labor prime minister Yitzhak Rabin gratified Qaboos in 1994, as did his heir Shimon Peres. But in the mid-1 990 s the Oslo peace process, albeit shortcoming and already stumbling, was still being pursued by Israel and Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization. It was still- just about- possible to believe in a happy expiration to the world’s most intractable conflict. Nowadays, by distinguish , no peace talks have been held between Israel and the PLO since 2014, when the Obama administration ultimately hurled in the towel. That is a very significant difference.

But despite these recent bursts of advertisement, hard evidence of Israeli ties with the Gulf governments is still uncommon- because they remain largely covert.

The links are most visible with the UAE, where Israel, uniquely, has an official diplomatic proximity at the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi- though both countries should be pointed out that they do not have bilateral relations. Avi Gabbay, ruler of the opposition Labour party, held talks there last December. Netanyahu is thought to have met Emirati presidents in Cyprus in 2015 to discuss how to tackle Iran. But secret contacts between the two countries were routine from the mid-1 990 s- some of which were recorded in the US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. The Emiratis” believes in Israel’s role because of their feeling of Israel’s close relationship with the US, but too due to their sense that they can count on Israel against Iran ,” an Israeli diplomat memorandum in 2009, adding that in general Gulf Arabs” believe Israel can work supernatural “.

These “below-the-surface” relations suffered a heinous setback in 2010 when a Mossad hit team assassinated the Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel. Mabhouh was Hamas’s arms-procurement liaison with Iran. The Emiratis banned anyone identified as Israeli from penetrating the country, even if they were circulating on a foreign passport. But it wasn’t long before discreet diplomatic and business relations resumed.” In such cases you simply keep your pate down and wait until everything there is punches over ,” said a Swiss-based Israeli businessman. In 2013 the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, spoke from Jerusalem via satellite to 29 foreign ministers from Arab and Muslim countries attending an Abu Dhabi conference.

The Israelis softly participated in seam military exercises with UAE forces-out, both in the US and in Greece, from 2016. Last-place year UAE military personnel reportedly inspected an Israeli airbase to review the operations of US-made F-3 5 fighter jets, though this was was rejected by Israel. Clandestine cooperation is believed to include Israeli intelligence surveillance of Iran, and the sale of Israeli drones used throughout this conflict in Yemen.

Israel’s confederations in the Arabian Gulf

But the clearest evidence of overlapping fascinates between the Gulf and Israel has come in occasional public explanations from Gulf officials. In small island developing domain of Bahrain, where the Sunni Al Khalifa monarchy crushes a Shia majority and demonstrations were suppressed by Saudi intervention in 2011, the foreign minister faced censure last year where reference is spoke of Israel’s right to defend itself after Iranian missiles were propelled from Syria. On Arabic-language social media, foes of normalisation exploded in resentment. But in late 2017, when Trump told the contentious decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Bahrain’s foreign minister tweeted:” It’s not helpful to pick a fight with the US over side issues while we together addressing the issue of clear and present danger of The Theo-Fascist Islamic republic .” Rumour has it that Bahrain’s capital, Manama, is also available Netanyahu’s next GCC destination.

Qatar, the dissenter of the headland, has long reacted more independently, and more so since a coalition that includes Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt prescribed a obstruction on Qatar in 2017, to pressure it over the encouragement of Islamist groups and its perceived tolerance of Iran. But in the past few years Doha has played an increasingly public persona in liaising between Israel and Hamas, which restrains Gaza, with Qatar’s emissary delivering suitcases stuffed with millions of dollars in currency to pay official stipends and relieve the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza resulting from its siege by Israel. Qatar is criticised by the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, for legitimising Hamas, its Islamist rival.

Oman likewise goes on naughtily with the Saudis and Emiratis because it has always had friendly relations with Iran, stimulating speculation that Netanyahu’s trip was intended to send a message to Tehran. Omani roots imagine, however, that the sultan’s invitation was about advertising his pro-Israel credentials to Washington, where Trump’s hawkish national protection team is suspicious of Oman’s ties to the Islamic Republic. Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, exposed afterward that he had been advised in advance about Netanyahu’s trip and alleged Israel of trying to cause rifts in the Gulf.

Fear of Iran, above all, is what has brought Israel and the Gulf states together. Surmise of Tehran dates back to the 1979 Iranian change, but it has intensified in the past two decades. The US-led intrusion of Iraq in 2003- which staggeringly increased Iran’s influence in individual regions by removing a longstanding opponent, Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime- came a year after the exposure of a secret uranium enrichment facility revealed that Iran had not vacated its nuclear program passions. This sharpened the emphasis placed on the Islamic Republic’s regional aspirations, including a potential threat to Israel’s undeclared nuclear monopoly.

In 2004 King Abdullah of Jordan warned of the illusion of a “Shia crescent” stretching from Damascus to Tehran via Baghdad, where Iraq’s Shia majority had been empowered by the removal of Saddam. The homicide of the Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005 implicated Syria and the Iranian-backed Shia organisation Hezbollah. In January 2006, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad gratified the hardline Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In December 2005, at the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Mecca, Ahmadinejad had used a pronunciation to deny the Holocaust- provide a description of one commentator as” a insolent routine of one-upmanship that left the Al Saud[ Saudi Arabia’s ruling category] chastened and unable to respond “.

The key important turning point was the 2006 battle between Israel and Hezbollah. The 34 -day conflict distinguished a step-change in regional dynamics. Riyadh criticized Hezbollah’s incursion into Israel and abduction of two Israeli soldiers, describing him not as” lawful resistance” but a” overestimated adventure “. The Saudis and Israelis had a” common interest in treating Hezbollah and Iran a serious blow ,” echoed Daniel Kurtzer, who had been American ambassador to Israel until the previous year. Officially sanctioned Saudi clergymen excoriated Hezbollah, while foes of Saudi Arabia’s sovereigns” seized upon the struggle to spotlit the forethought, immobility, impiety and- some specimen, illegitimacy- of the Saudi government ,” as a subsequently study concluded. In August, Assad reviled the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan as “half-men” because of their antagonism to the Lebanese militia.

UN peacekeepers with a billboard presenting Iran’s late commander Ayatollah Khomeini after the Israel-Hezbollah war, southern Lebanon, September 2006. Photograph: Francois Mori/ AP

Secret diplomacy between Israel and pro-western Arab districts then intensified. In mid-September 2006, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, travelled to the Jordanian capital, Amman, to match Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the long-standing Saudi ambassador to Washington DC, known as “Bandar Bush” because of his close links to the presidential category. Now he was national insurance consultant to King Abdullah. Back in Riyadh, the Saudis were furious when news leaked of the gratify- as a former senior Israeli intelligence official “ve told me”- and disclaimed it had taken place. Publicly, Olmert saying : that “hes been” ” highly affected by various moves and statements connected with Saudi Arabia “. Nor did he refer to meeting Bandar when he produced his memoirs a decade afterwards.( Israel’s clandestine relations with Arab countries are still considered a national insurance topic by the military censoring authorities and a ministerial committee that vets publications by serving and former officials and politicians .)

One of the key players on the Israeli side was the Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, who was ascribed with a proactive alliance-building programme with Arab and other partners, in part as a means to enable Israel’s assassinations of Iranian scientists and destruction of Tehran’s nuclear programme.” Israel and the Gulf regimes were in the same craft ,” mentioned David Meidan, who led Mossad’s international department.

” All of a sudden the Mossad was schooling Farsi ,” a former knowledge official marvelled. It was reported around this time that a meet had been gathered in the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba between Dagan, Bandar and the head of Jordanian intelligence, who decided to” build up and accelerate intellect exchanges” to cope with Iranian menaces. The conspicuous presence of Dagan’s heir Yossi Cohen- nicknamed” the simulate” because of his fashionable suits- alongside Netanyahu in Muscat last October may have been intended to send a not-so-subtle signal to the Iranians about Israel’s ability access to Gulf capitals.

One former UAE diplomat have said that the threat from Iran today had a unifying upshot comparable to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which led to a previously unacceptable US armed spirit in Saudi Arabia.” If it wasn’t for the Palestinian question ,” the ex-diplomat said,” such relationships with Israel would be very public, and it would be very welcome, because we need their military gear and technology .”

Jamal al-Suwaidi, the founder of the government-backed Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, set it more bluntly:” The Palestinian cause is no longer at the vanguard of Arabs’ interests, as it used to be for long decades; it has sharply lost priority in light of the challenges, threats and troubles that face the region .” Similarly, he included, the question of Israel was not comparable to the” threats constituted … by Iran, Hezbollah and terrorist radicals “.

There is still audible disagreement in the Gulf over the developing reconciliation with Israel.” I am against normalisation ,” insists Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a Dubai political scientist.” I am against descent the Palestinian question because still others capitalising on it politically. Although Palestine is not the number one issue, it is still an issue- in the heart perhaps , not so much better in the mind .” One expres, nonetheless, of UAE priorities can be found in the strict nation restraints imposes on media: word locates affiliated with Qatar and Iran are impeded, but Israeli websites are not.

In addition to shared defiance for Iran, the Gulf states and Israel have been brought together by a common hatred to Islamist parties. Arabic and English-language media associated with such Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey and Qatar regularly expose and lambast UAE links to Israel. Qatar-based al-Jazeera is a major source for these fibs, as is the Middle eastern Eye website in London. Emiratis respond by be remembered that the first ever Israeli mission in the Gulf was actually opened in Qatar, in the post-Oslo honeymoon of 1996.( Israeli representative offices in Qatar and Oman closed after the outbreak of the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in 2000, but discreet ties continued .)

Many important developments in the advancing relationship between Israel and the Gulf have gone unreported because they are masked by contradictory public positions- and sometimes by outright lies. In December 2008, when some 1,400 Palestinians were killed during Gaza in the Israeli military’s Operation Cast Lead, the Saudis publicly criticised Israel. Shortly afterwards, nonetheless, Riyadh appeared to accept in further Israeli military action against Hamas, in the form of airstrikes against Iranian forearms convoys in Sudan en route to Gaza. Divulged US cables testified the Israelis attached a diplomatic campaign to stop artilleries being delivered. When that neglected, they launched long-distance attacks across the Red Sea into Sudan in early 2009, but crucially gave prior notification to the Saudis, according to informed sources.

By then, in accordance with the deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council,” elderly professionals in the intelligence and safety battlegrounds from Israel and the Gulf each country to collaborating “. The same informants corroborate, as has been sometimes reported but always officially repudiated, that the Saudis agreed to turn a blind eye to Israeli air force flights across their territory in the event of an Israeli ten-strike on Iran’s nuclear installation, before the idea was vacated because of Obama’s opposition in 2012.

Israeli trade with the Gulf territories is currently estimated to be worth$ 1bn a year, though no official statistics are available on either side. The potential, however, is vast- in technology, specially cybersecurity, irrigation, medical supplies and the diamond manufacture, among others, it could be up to $25 bn yearly, according to a detailed new study.

Israeli businessmen applying foreign passports hover regularly to the UAE, usually on commercial-grade flights via Amman.” There is a huge amount going on ,” says the Israeli representative of a multinational company who circulates to Arab countries with an EU passport.

AGT International, owned by Israeli Mati Kochavi, provisioned electronic fences and surveillance paraphernalium worth $800 m to protect UAE metes and oilfields. Emirati officials described this as a non-political decision motivated by national security interests. In 2014 Haaretz acquired headlines where reference is first spotted a strange weekly private flight from Tel Aviv, via Amman, to Dubai. Nowadays direct flights between the Gulf and Israel, though still unexplained publicly, are frequently reported on social media. Israeli enterprises operate in the UAE via firms registered in Europe. Bills of lading are produced from an intermediary country, often Jordan or Cyprus.

Like the Emiratis, the Saudis have quietly engaged Israeli firms, especially in its own security sphere. One Israeli house was a subcontractor on the hi-tech barricade constructed from 2014 by the European explanation monstrous EADS along the kingdom’s borderline with Iraq, a senior veteran of Israel’s defence establishment revealed in an interview.

In 2012, when hackers breached the computer system of Saudi Aramco, the national oil firm, Israeli businesses were called in. Israel apparently exchanged dronings to Saudi Arabia via South Africa, but denied that it had exchanged its” Iron Dome” system protecting the sphere from weapon attacks by Iranian-backed Houthi mavericks in Yemen. In 2018 Israeli media were allowed by armed censors to report that the Israeli and Saudi chiefs of staff had met at a Washington conference for captains of US-allied armies. The Saudis denied the story.

Buildings been struck by Houthi rockets in Najran, Saudi Arabia, August 2016. Photo: Reuters

Intelligence cooperation between Israel and the Gulf districts have become even more secretive- although Israeli politicians and officials do refer to it sometimes. In late 2017, Israel’s army chief of staff acquired headlines where reference is offered to share intelligence on Iran with Saudi Arabia- noting that their countries shared” many common interests “. Western sources show the existence of this cooperation.” The Israeli intelligence tribes who have gone to these countries have met the leaders ,” said a former senior US diplomat.” They know each other quite well .” Obama’s first secretary on the part of states, Hillary Clinton, reportedly” knew that the UAE and Saudi Arabia were … working together behind the scenes with the Mossad to counter Iranian force “.

Unofficial Saudi spokesmen say coordinated with Israel is confined to the subjects of Iran and counter-terrorism- and complain that the Israelis inflate its level for propaganda purposes. As one well connected Saudi journalist tweeted, with usual dismissiveness:” Fetishising non-existent co-operation between #Saudi/ GCC states and #Israel has become a trend in western media/ thinktank cliques .” Foreign authorities close to both countries feel the two maintain a hotline for emergencies and are in regular contact.” There is now contiguity between the Israelis and Saudis ,” says a western knowledge root.” You has actually been the kind of security relations between countries that exist when they share a border. The committee is practical things that need to be sorted out, so you end up with a routine relationship which can create more elderly contact and a most strategic outlook on both sides .”

It is a reasonably open secret. In 2013, Bandar bin Sultan, by then loping Saudi General Intelligence, converged the then Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, for what a elderly British informant described as a” long and boozy dinner” at a Knightsbridge hotel.” There has all along been such active cooperation between the two countries, in terms of analysis, human intellect and interception on Iran and motions loyal to it such as Hezbollah, the Houthis and the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Units ,” a specialist knowledge newsletter reported in 2016. Saudi officials were said to be as “pleased as punch”.

On the Saudi side, nonetheless, the committee is objections that the relationship is an disproportionate one. Israel, it is said, has not always responded to requests for intelligence, even when submitted via the US. And there are indeed the indicators of an internal debate in Israel about the value of links with the domain. Its own sophisticated surveillance abilities are not matched by what the Saudis have to offer, whether that’s knowledge of Yemeni tribes or Arabs in Iranian’s Khuzestan province, according to an Israeli with long experience of dealing with Riyadh.

There is also still a lack of trust between the two sides.” I can understand that the Israelis would not have given the Saudis sensitive information because they couldn’t be confident that the Saudis would have protected the resources- and that would have created a serious counter-intelligence trouble ,” mused another knowledge ex-serviceman.” They are not natural marriages. They have very different intelligence cultures. The Israelis are world-class and the Gulfies are not. The Israelis would not go into a relationship unless they get some proper dividend .”

The developing links between Israel and the Gulf were given a significant boost by Trump’s arrival in the White House- although early US plans for a convene between Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s MBS and the Emirati crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, failed to materialise. But the trend was already clear under Obama. Signs of extending Saudi-Israeli relations proliferated when King Salman came to the throne in 2015, and even more so since MBS- who was profiled by Israeli intelligence on Netanyahu’s orders- was supported to crown prince.

In 2016 Israel payed the go-ahead to Egypt to transfer to Saudi Arabia the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir, at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. A Saudi lobbyist, Salman Ansari, called for a” collaborative alliance” with Israel to help MBS’s Vision 2030 plan for economic reform and diversification. Both countries faced” constant threats from extremist groups … immediately supported by the totalitarian government of Iran ,” he indicated. The $500 bn Neom megacity activity, near the frontiers of Jordan, Egypt and Israel, lured strong Israeli stake. The Straits of Tiran, the blockade of which by Egypt’s PresidentGamal Abdel Nasser triggered the 1967 campaign , now faced a brighter future, showed the commentator Abdelrahman al-Rashed,” one where peacefulnes and prosperity prevail “.

Trump’s inflammatory decision in December 2017 to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, breaching a long-standing international consensus, initially met with a subdued response in Riyadh. The president’s” eventual deal” to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict was discussed by his son-in-law Jared Kushner with MBS. Subsequent discloses drawn attention to a key role for the Saudis in pressuring the Palestinians. And when the crown prince made a three-week excursion to the US last spring, he transmitted even louder signals about his intentions toward Israel, telling the Atlantic that the Palestinians is able to accept Trump’s plan or” shut up and stop complain” about an issue that was no longer a priority compared to confronting Iran. MBS too explicitly accepted Jewish claims to Israel, declaring:” I speculate the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land .” Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza burned photographs of the Saudi royals.

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. Picture: AP

Unusually, MBS was then reined in by “his fathers”. In April 2018, at the Arab League summit in Dhahran, Salman announced that it would be identified the al-Quds( Jerusalem) conference.” In Saudi Arabia, the prince is the one who decides on this issue now , not the crown prince ,” as a senior Arab diplomat excused. The resumption of Saudi financial aid to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority- which was also a have responded to Qatari support for Hamas-ruled Gaza- was another clue.

In the background, nonetheless were other clues of Saudi flexibility: in March 2018 a commercial flight from Delhi to Tel Aviv was allowed for the first time to cross Saudi airspace. But there was a significant suitability.” Kerry requested the Saudis to let[ Israeli airline] El Al tent-fly over their territory ,” manifested an Israeli protection expert.” And who got dispensation? Air India! it shows that the Saudis can be flexible but they cannot betray the Palestinians , not because they desire them or rely them but because it is an issue for their people and the religious establishment- and too because of its own position vis-a-vis Iran .” Nevertheless, it fitted the narrative that Netanyahu has been eagerly helping, that the relationship with key Arab regimes were” improving beyond curiosity” regardless of the Palestinian question. In June the Saudi intelligence director Khalid bin Ali al-Humaidan apparently joined Kushner and Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt, as well as the Mossad’s Yossi Cohen and his Palestinian Authority, Jordanian and Egyptian equivalents, in Aqaba to discuss regional security.

These increasingly cosy affairs suffered a serious blow with the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018. Amid international judgment and constantly changing Saudi responses, the Israeli authority was initially silent. When Netanyahu eventually addressed the question, he deplored a “horrendous” incident, but advised it was important that Saudi Arabia remain stable- which was more or less exactly what Trump said, more. Saudi beginnings said his position was ” much appreciated” in Riyadh. Israel’s intelligence community was said to be alarmed by MBS’s recklessness.” Let’s hope that if he wants to assassinate beings again- say commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards- he’ll consult parties with some relevant know ,” wrote the security expert Ronen Bergman. Surveillance equipment manufactured by the Israeli company NSO was reportedly used to track the Saudi journalist, according to the Washington Post. And one of the two top aides to MBS “whos” blamed for the time of killing was the most senior Saudi official to have visited Israel( in search of state-of-the-art surveillance engineering ), reported the Wall Street Journal. It revealed too that new arrangements had been put in place to allow Israel financiers to softly call the kingdom.

In public, nonetheless, Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Israel remains cautious and reticent. Unlike the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar, it refuses to allow Israelis to attend international sports events.” Not hosting a chess tournament with Israeli participants is a statement of our resolving for a free Palestine ,” explained the columnist Tariq al-Maeena.” As the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, Saudi Arabia produces the heavines of the Muslim world and these sorts of commitment is necessary to ward off splendid Zionist motifs for individual regions .” Last December the Saudis even resisted a UN resolution condemning Hamas, along with all other Arab states.

Among the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, dismay appeared to have receded. Hypothesi about how far MBS will dare to go in espousing Israel is no more than” gossipy innuendo”, said here Palestinian ambassador in London, Husam Zomlot, who was hurled out of Washington as part of the US offensive against the PLO. Saeb Erekat, the PLO’s manager negotiator, scorned the” imperialist fictions of the Trump unit”, insisting that” the whole of Palestine remains close in the heart of every Arab- and is not going to see fade away “.

Netanyahu is remaining to his script: visit Chad in January, he boasted that Israel’s relations with that country had been renewed in the face of Iranian and Palestinian resist, and that it was the result of improving links with the Arab world. But on the eve of the Warsaw conference, a leaked Israeli foreign ministry report was of the view that the Saudis were not prepared to go further in developing overt relations. The same object was made by the Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, another ex-spymaster.” Israeli public opinion should not be deceived into believing that the Palestinian issue is a dead issue ,” he said in an unprecedented interrogation with an Israeli TV channel.

The attitudes of Gulf governments have clearly changed. But the bottom line is that Israel has failed to provide the incentives required for the Saudis and their allies to come out of the wardrobe, to allow them to reconcile geopolitical logic with popular sentiment, because it has not offered anything approaching an acceptable treat for the Palestinians.” Everyone knows about the reconciliation with Israel, but no one can talk about it publicly, and no one can advocate it because there is nothing for the Palestinians in return ,” concludes an Arab specialist in Abu Dhabi.” The supposition is that if it was going to happen openly, it would have to be in return for something big-hearted, and it does not look as though that is going to happen .”

Many Israelis agree. Even the ex-Mossad head Pardo argues that the cosiest clandestine connec


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