The long read: After decades of enmity, a shared hate of Iran and a mutual fondness for Trump is fetching Israels secret links with Gulf kingdoms out into the open

In mid-February 2019, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, ran to Warsaw for a highly unusual powwow. Under the auspices of the US vice-president, Mike Pence, he met the ministers for foreign affairs of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and two other Gulf states that have no diplomatic relations with Israel. The major items on the orders of the day was containing Iran. No Palestinians were present. Most of the existing links between Israel and the Gulf have been impeded secret- but these talks were not. In point, Netanyahu’s office leaked a video of a executive session, flustering the Arab participants.

The meeting publicly showcased the striking fact that Israel, as Netanyahu was so keen to advertise, is acquiring credence of a style from the wealthiest countries in the Arab world- even as the prospects for resolving the longstanding Palestinian issue are at an all-time low. This unprecedented reconciliation has been driven principally by a shared acrimony towards Iran, and by the disorderly brand-new policies of Donald Trump.

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

Evidence is organizing of increasingly close ties between Israel and five of the six of the Gulf Cooperation Council( GCC)- nothing of which have formal relations with the Jewish commonwealth. Trump highlighted this accelerating change on his first foreign expedition as chairperson– 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 dissolve the Israel-Palestine conflict have faded since then. Yet Netanyahu is seeking to normalise the relationship with Saudi Arabia. And there has even been opinion about a public gather between him and Mohammed bin Salman( MBS ), the Saudi crown prince who was widely blamed for the brutal carnage of correspondent Jamal Khashoggi last October. That would be a sensational- and highly controversial- instant, which is why Saudis are signalling frantically “that its not” be happening. Still, the has met with Netanyahu in Warsaw started well beyond anything that has taken place before. The abnormal is turn normal.

The original impetus for these developing relationships between Israel and the Gulf positions was a mutual loathing for Barack Obama. In the early years of the Arab outpouring, he riled the Saudis and the UAE, and feared Israel, by vacating Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak, and then voiced expressed support for the popular mutiny in Syria and “ve called for” Bashar al-Assad to resign. In 2015, when the US-led nuclear agreement was signed with Iran, it was vehemently opposed by Israel and most Gulf countries. That September, Russia’s military intervention in Syria marked the beginning of the end of the crisis for Assad. Tehran’s steadfast support for its friend in Damascus, and its endorse of Hezbollah in Lebanon- Iran’s” axis of resist”- was considered with identical outrage in Jerusalem, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

” The Obama administration was hated by Saudi Arabia and Israel because it shunned them both ,” a senior Saudi told me. A veteran Israeli official made the same disagreement:” There was a sense that we were looking at an American’ s administration that wasn’t as had undertaken to America’s traditional pals. We had to build common effect 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 is happening with Arab states 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 necessarily visible above the surface, but what is below the surface is far greater than at any other span .” As Dore Gold, Netanyahu’s former national security consultant, developed with a smile, these messages are” very carefully drafted to give a positive meaning without running the beans .”

The priority for the Saudis and their friends is resisting Iran, which in the past few years has consolidated its 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 compared Obama’s nuclear cope to the Munich agreement of 1938- and after Trump vacated it last summer, Netanyahu signalled Israel’s readiness to connected an” international organization” against Tehran.” We were raised to see Israel as an foe that occupied Arab countries ,” insists 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 attentions , not spirits .”

There is also a pragmatic identification in Gulf uppercases of the benefits of security, technical and economic been linked to an unassailably strong Israel- is not merely for their own sake, but likewise because of the US approval that produces. Israel appreciates ties with the Gulf as an important practice of expressing its own affect in Washington.” It can doubt that its scope of application of( US) aid to Arab countries could have been sustained without the backing of Aipac( the primary pro-Israel hallway radical) and Jewish organisations ,” suggests Eran Lerman, former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council.

None of this means that the Palestinian issue has gone away. “Normalisation”( of its relationship with Israel) is still in dirty word for millions of Arabs, which is why autocratic Gulf commanders fear popular opposition to their new cosiness with Netanyahu. Formally, every GCC state remains committed to the Arabpeaceinitiative of 2002, which provides for recognition of Israel in return for a Palestinian territory in the territories occupied in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its uppercase. But even this is far more than Netanyahu will ever countenanced: he will consider only a Palestinian “state-minus”, and openly refuses to dismantle the illegal settlements that subdivide the West Bank into disconnected districts. Netanyahu’s many Israeli reviewers- angry over the corruption indictments he is facing as next month’s elections approach- have deplored that he is overdoing both the Iranian menace and the importance of his Gulf diplomacy, while totally ignoring 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 spectacular public view of this changing Middle east reality. Last October, the Israeli prime minister held talks in Muscat, the capital of Oman, with its ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The following date, his Likud party colleague, the culture and boasts minister Miri Regev, was visiting Abu Dhabi in the UAE, while at the same era Israeli athletes were playing 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 blue-blooded clothing and tie-in, was examined exchanging pleasantries with the sultan, in a turban and traditional white-hot dishdasha dres. The Israeli leader’s spouse, Sara, was there with other representatives of his delegating, including an impassive middle-aged guy 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 wept on camera as Hatikvah, Israel’s national chant( the Hebrew paroles are about craving for Zion) was played. Later she toured the opulent Sheikh Zayed mosque, celebrating the UAE’s founder, a loyal partisan of the Palestinian crusade. These two Israeli ministerial his trip to Gulf capitals opened a strong boost to the thought of stunning changes in the region’s alliances.

But as report of Netanyahu’s visit to Oman emerged, 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 asserts now challenge the blockade imposed on the territory by Israel since 2007.

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

” Our[ Gulf] Arab brothers … have stabbed us in the front and the back, vacating us politically while hugging Israel ,” complained the Palestinian activist Kamel Hawwash.” Israeli flags could soon be moving in the skies of some Gulf states, while they push the Palestinian leadership into accepting a’ quietnes’ treat that is unacceptable .” He described” nauseating personas of a beaming … Netanyahu- the leader of an despotic apartheid district, 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 commander to call Muscat. The Labor prime minister Yitzhak Rabin gratified Qaboos in 1994, as did his successor 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 purpose to the world’s most intractable conflict. Nowadays, by differ , no peace talks have been held between Israel and the PLO since 2014, when the Obama administration lastly threw in the towel. That is a very significant difference.

But despite these recent flashings of advertising, hard evidence of Israeli ties with the Gulf territories is still rare- because they remain largely covert.

The links are most visible with the UAE, where Israel, uniquely, has an official diplomatic attendance 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, manager of the opposition parties Labour party, held talks there last-place December. Netanyahu is thought to have met Emirati chairmen 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 knowledge 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 memo in 2009, adding that in general Gulf Arabs” imagine Israel can work magic “.

These “below-the-surface” relations suffered a grievous 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 two countries, even though they are the issue is roaming on a foreign passport. But it wasn’t long before discreet diplomatic and business relates resumed.” In such cases you are only keep your manager 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 spacecraft to 29 the ministers for foreign affairs of Arab and Muslim countries attending an Abu Dhabi conference.

The Israelis calmly participated in seam military exercises with UAE coerces, both in the US and in Greece, from 2016. Last time UAE military personnel reportedly visited an Israeli airbase to review the operations of US-made F-3 5 fighter jets, though this was denied by Israel. Clandestine cooperation is believed to include Israeli intelligence surveillance of Iran, and sales of Israeli drones used in the battle in Yemen.

Israel’s partnerships in the Arabian Gulf

But the clearest evidence of overlapping pastimes between the Gulf and Israel has come in occasional public proclamations from Gulf officials. In small island developing kingdom of Bahrain, where the Sunni Al Khalifa monarchy subdues a Shia majority and complains were suppressed by Saudi involvement in 2011, the foreign minister faced disapproval 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, resists of normalisation exploded in outrage. But in late 2017, when Trump advertise 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 fight the 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 peninsula, have all along behaved more independently, and more so since a coalition that includes Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt prescribed a blockade on Qatar in 2017, to pressure it over its support of Islamist groups and its perceived tolerance of Iran. But in the past few years Doha has played an increasingly public capacity in liaising between Israel and Hamas, which holds Gaza, with Qatar’s emissary delivering suitcases substance with millions of dollars in money to pay official stipends and alleviate 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 get on severely with the Saudis and Emiratis because it has always had friendly relations with Iran, motivating speculation that Netanyahu’s trip was intended to send a message to Tehran. Omani generators feel, nonetheless, that the sultan’s invitation was about advertising his pro-Israel credentials to Washington, where Trump’s hawkish national defence squad is suspicious of Oman’s ties to the Islamic Republic. Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, uncovered afterward that he had been counselled 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. Suspicion of Tehran dates back to the 1979 Iranian change, but it has intensified in the past two decades. The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003- which immensely increased Iran’s influence in individual regions by removing a longstanding enemy, Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime- came a year after the exposure of a secret uranium enrichment facility is an indication that Iran had not abandoned its nuclear 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 figure of a “Shia crescent” elongate 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 congregated the hardline Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In December 2005, at the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Mecca, Ahmadinejad had utilized a discussion to disavow the Holocaust- provide a description of one commentator as” a brazen-faced number of one-upmanship that left the Al Saud[ Saudi Arabia’s governing household] humbled and unable to respond “.

The key important turning point was the 2006 battle between Israel and Hezbollah. The 34 -day conflict marked a step-change in regional dynamics. Riyadh criticized Hezbollah’s incursion into Israel and abduction of two Israeli soldiers, describing him not as” legitimate resist” but a” overestimated undertaking “. The Saudis and Israelis had a” common interest in dealing Hezbollah and Iran a serious punch ,” withdrew Daniel Kurtzer, who had been American ambassador to Israel until the previous year. Officially sanctioned Saudi clerics excoriated Hezbollah, while opposings of Saudi Arabia’s sovereigns” hijacked upon the war to foreground the caution, immobility, impiety and- some examples, illegitimacy- of the Saudi regiman ,” as a afterward study concluded. In August, Assad reviled the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan as “half-men” because of their acrimony to the Lebanese militia.

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

Secret diplomacy between Israel and pro-western Arab commonwealths then intensified. In mid-September 2006, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, travelled to the Jordanian uppercase, Amman, to converge Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the long-standing Saudi ambassador to Washington DC, known as “Bandar Bush” because of his close links to the presidential pedigree. Now he was national security adviser to King Abdullah. Back in Riyadh, the Saudis were fierce when news leaked of the rally- as a former elderly Israeli intelligence official told me- and repudiated it had has just taken place. Publicly, Olmert said only that he was ” highly amazed by various moves and statements connected with Saudi Arabia “. Nor did he refer to meeting Bandar when he wrote his memoirs a decade subsequently.( Israel’s clandestine relations with Arab countries are still considered a national security problem by the military censoring authorities and a ministerial committee that veterinarians brochures by helping and former officials and politicians .)

One of the key players on the Israeli side was the Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, who was credited 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 sabotage of Tehran’s nuclear programme.” Israel and the Gulf governments were in the same craft ,” saw David Meidan, who led Mossad’s international department.

” All of a sudden the Mossad was schooling Farsi ,” a former ability official marvelled. It was reported around this time that a satisfy had been convened in the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba between Dagan, Bandar and the is chairman of Jordanian intellect, who chose to” building and strengthening and accelerate intelligence exchanges” to cope with Iranian threats. The conspicuous spirit of Dagan’s successor Yossi Cohen- nicknamed” the example” because of his fashionable clothings- alongside Netanyahu in Muscat last October may have been intended to send a not-so-subtle signal to the Iranians about Israel’s intelligence access to Gulf capitals.

One former UAE diplomat told me that security threats from Iran today had a unifying impression comparable to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which led to a previously intolerable 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 material and technological sciences .”

Jamal al-Suwaidi, the founder of the government-backed Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, put it more bluntly:” The Palestinian cause is no longer at the forefront of Arabs’ interests, as it used to be for long decades; it has sharply lost priority in the interests of the challenges, menaces and troubles that face the region .” Similarly, he contributed, 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 ,” holds Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a Dubai political scientist.” I am against sagging the Palestinian issue because still others capitalising on it politically. Although Palestine is not the number one issue, it is still such issues- in the heart maybe , not so much in the mind .” One expres, however, of UAE priorities can be found in the strict government authorities imposed on media: bulletin sites affiliated with Qatar and Iran are stymie, but Israeli websites are not.

In addition to shared defiance for Iran, the Gulf states and Israel have been brought together by a common hostility to Islamist defendants. Arabic and English-language media associated with such Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey and Qatar routinely uncover and lambast UAE links to Israel. Qatar-based al-Jazeera is a major source for these floors, as is the Middle East 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 largest intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in 2000, but discreet ties continued .)

Many important developments in the evolving linkages between Israel and the Gulf have gone unreported “because theres” masked by self-contradictory public positions- and sometimes by outright lies. In December 2008, when some 1,400 Palestinians were killed in Gaza in the Israeli military’s Operation Cast Lead, the Saudis publicly criticised Israel. Shortly afterwards, however, Riyadh appeared to succumb in farther Israeli military action against Hamas, in the form of airstrikes against Iranian limbs convoys in Sudan en route to Gaza. Revealed US cables demo the Israelis attached a diplomatic expedition to stop artilleries being delivered. When that flunked, they launched long-distance raids across the Red Sea into Sudan in early 2009, but crucially generated 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 security realms from Israel and the Gulf each country to collaborating “. The same informants prove, as has been sometimes reported but always officially disclaimed, that the Saudis agreed to turn a blind eye to Israeli air force flights across their territory in the event of an Israeli impres on Iran’s nuclear installation, before the idea was abandoned 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, nonetheless, is vast- in technology, specially cybersecurity, irrigation, medical renders and the diamond manufacture, among others, it is possible to up to $25 bn annually, according to a detailed brand-new study.

Israeli financiers expending foreign passports run regularly to the UAE, generally on commercial-grade flights via Amman.” There is a huge amount going on ,” says the Israeli representative of a multinational company who trips to Arab territories with an EU passport.

AGT International, owned by Israeli Mati Kochavi, furnished electronic fences and surveillance gear worth $800 m to protect UAE borderlines and oilfields. Emirati officials described this as a non-political decision motivated by national security interests. In 2014 Haaretz reached headlines where reference is first recognise a mysterious 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 business operate in the UAE via business registered in Europe. Bills of lading are produced from an intermediary country, often Jordan or Cyprus.

Like the Emiratis, the Saudis have calmly participated Israeli fellowships, particularly in its own security sphere. One Israeli conglomerate was a subcontractor on the hi-tech roadblock fabricated from 2014 by the European excuse monstrous EADS along the kingdom’s mete with Iraq, a senior veteran of Israel’s defence establishment revealed in an interview.

In 2012, when hackers breached the computer arrangement of Saudi Aramco, “the member states national” lubricant corporation, Israeli enterprises were called in. Israel reportedly exchanged drones to Saudi Arabia via South africans, but denied that it had exchanged its” Iron Dome” plan protecting the kingdom from weapon attacks by Iranian-backed Houthi mavericks in Yemen. In 2018 Israeli media were allowed by military censors to report that the Israeli and Saudi chiefs of staff had met at a Washington conference for captains of US-allied militaries. The Saudis disclaimed the story.

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

Intelligence cooperation between Israel and the Gulf positions have become even more secretive- although Israeli politicians and officials do refer to it occasionally. In late 2017, Israel’s army chief of staff moved headlines where reference is present to share intelligence on Iran with Saudi Arabia- noting further that their countries shared” numerous common interests “. Western roots approve 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 firstly secretary on the part of states, Hillary Clinton, reportedly” knew that the UAE and Saudi Arabia were … cooperating with each other behind the scenes with the Mossad to counter Iranian influence “.

Unofficial Saudi spokesmen say cooperation with Israel is confined to the subjects of Iran and counter-terrorism- and complain that the Israelis overdo its expanse for propaganda purposes. As one well connected Saudi journalist tweeted, with usual dismissiveness:” Fetishising non-existent collaboration between #Saudi/ GCC states and #Israel has become a trend in western media/ thinktank haloes .” Foreign authorities close to both countries speculate the two maintain a hotline for emergencies and are in regular contact.” There is now contiguity between the Israelis and Saudis ,” says a western intelligence source.” 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 rapport which can create more senior contact and a more strategic outlook on both sides .”

It is a fairly open secret. In 2013, Bandar bin Sultan, by then running Saudi General Intelligence, satisfied the then Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, for what a senior British source described as a” long and boozy dinner” at a Knightsbridge hotel.” There has never been such active cooperation between both countries, in terms of analysis, human knowledge and interception on Iran and progress loyal to it such as Hezbollah, the Houthis and the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Units ,” functional specialists knowledge newsletter reported in 2016. Saudi officials were said to be as “pleased as punch”.

On the Saudi side, however, there are grumbles that the relationship is an unequal one. Israel, it is said, has not always responded to requests for knowledge, even when submitted via the US. And there are indeed indications of an internal debate in Israel about the value of links with the empire. 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 addressed 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 problem ,” mused another ability veteran.” They are not natural spouses. 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 linked by Israel and the Gulf were given a significant boost by Trump’s arrival in the White House- although early US plans for a gather between Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s MBS and the Emirati crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, is inadequate to materialise. But the trend was already clear under Obama. Signs of redoubling Saudi-Israeli relations multiplied 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 promoted to crown prince.

In 2016 Israel returned 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 blueprint for economic reform and diversification. Both countries faced” constant threats from militant groups … directly supported by the totalitarian government of Iran ,” he indicated. The $500 bn Neom megacity assignment, near the frontiers of Jordan, Egypt and Israel, captivated strong Israeli pastime. The Straits of Tiran, the blockade of which by Egypt’s PresidentGamal Abdel Nasser prompted the 1967 struggle , now faced a brighter future, showed the commentator Abdelrahman al-Rashed,” one where treaty and prosperity prevail “.

Trump’s inflammatory decision in December 2017 to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, breaching a long-standing international consensus, initially met with a muted response in Riyadh. The president’s” eventual spate” solve the Israel-Palestine conflict considered by his son-in-law Jared Kushner with MBS. Subsequent discloses pointed 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 should accept Trump’s plan or” shut up and stop complaining” about an issue that was no longer national priorities compared to confronting Iran. MBS too explicitly recognise Jewish claims to Israel, affirming:” I guess the Palestinians and the Israelis has every right to to have their own land .” Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza burned photographs of the Saudi royals.

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

Unusually, MBS was then reined in by his father. In April 2018, at the Arab League summit in Dhahran, Salman announced that it would be identified the al-Quds( Jerusalem) elevation.” In Saudi Arabia, the lord is the one who decides on this issue now , not the crown prince ,” as a senior Arab diplomat interpreted. The the resumed part 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 signs of Saudi flexibility: in March 2018 a commercial-grade flight from Delhi to Tel Aviv was allowed for the first time to cross Saudi airspace. But there was a significant suitability.” Kerry questioned the Saudis to let[ Israeli airline] El Al fly over their territory ,” indicated an Israeli defence expert.” And who got dispensation? Air India! it shows that the Saudis can be flexible but they cannot betray the Palestinians , not because they affection them or rely them but because it is an issue for their people and the religious constitution- and likewise because of its own position vis-a-vis Iran .” Nevertheless, it fitted the narrative that Netanyahu has been eagerly promoting, that relations with key Arab countries were” improving beyond resource” irrespective of the Palestinian issue. In June the Saudi intelligence director Khalid bin Ali al-Humaidan reportedly met 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 jolt with the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018. Amid international denunciation and constantly changing Saudi responses, the Israeli government was initially silent. When Netanyahu eventually addressed the question, he regretted a “horrendous” happen, but alerted it is necessary to that Saudi Arabia are stable- which was more or less exactly what Trump said, extremely. Saudi sources 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 people again- say captains of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards- he’ll consult parties with some relevant suffer ,” wrote its own 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 who were is the responsibility of the killing was the most senior Saudi official to have visited Israel( in search of state-of-the-art surveillance engineering ), reported the Wall st. Journal. It revealed too that new arrangements had been put in place to allow Israel tycoons to calmly call the kingdom.

In public, however, 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 resolution for a free Palestine ,” mentioned the columnist Tariq al-Maeena.” As the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, Saudi Arabia brings the heavines of the Muslim world and these sorts of commitment is needed for fend off grand Zionist designs for the region .” Last December the Saudis even opposed a UN resolution condemning Hamas, along with all other Arab states.

Among the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, fear seems to have abated. Hypothesi about how far MBS will dare to go in espousing Israel is no more than” gossipy implication”, said the 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 premier delegate, rebuffed the” imperialist fantasies of the Trump team”, insisting that” all of the members of Palestine remains close in the heart of every Arab- and is not going to see fade away “.

Netanyahu is protruding to his dialogue: visiting 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 assessed that the Saudis were not prepared to go further in developing overt relations. The same phase was made by the Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, another ex-spymaster.” Israeli public opinion should not be misled into believing that the Palestinian issue is a dead edition ,” he said in an extraordinary interview 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 enable them to reconcile geopolitical logic with popular sentiment, because it has not offered anything approaching an acceptable slew for the Palestinians.” Everyone are all aware of the rapprochement 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 commentator in Abu Dhabi.” The belief is that if it was going to happen openly, it would have to be in return for something big, and it does not look as though that is going to happen .”

Many Israelis agree. Even the ex-Mossad chairman Pardo argues that the cosiest undercover connec


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