The long read: After decades of aggression, a shared abhorrence of Iran and a mutual fondness for Trump is drawing 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 gathering. Under the auspices of the US vice-president, Mike Pence, he encountered the ministers for foreign affairs of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and two other Gulf states that have no diplomatic ties with Israel. The major items on the agenda was containing Iran. No Palestinians were present. Most of the existing linked by Israel and the Gulf have been deterred secret- but these talks were not. In fact, Netanyahu’s office leaked a video of a executive session, flustering the Arab participants.

The meeting publicly showcased the remarkable point that Israel, as Netanyahu was so lament to advertise, is prevailing adoption 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. This unprecedented reconciliation has been driven chiefly by a shared antagonism towards Iran, and by the disorderly new programs of Donald Trump.

Hostility to Israel has been a defining aspect of the geopolitical scenery of the Middle eastern since Israel’s creation in 1948 and the ouster or flight of more than 700,000 Palestinians- which Arabs see the Nakba, or catastrophe- that accompanied it. Still, over the years, pan-Arab solidarity and boycotts of the “Zionist entity” are predominantly faded away. The last Arab-Israeli war was in 1973. Israel’s peace pacts 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 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 territory. Trump spotlit this accelerating change on his first foreign errand as chairperson– to the Saudi capital Riyadh- by running on directly afterwards to Tel Aviv. Hopes for Saudi help with his much-hyped” transaction of the century” to purpose the Israel-Palestine conflict have faded since then. Yet Netanyahu is seeking to normalise relations with Saudi Arabia. And there has even been hypothesi about a public meeting between him and Mohammed bin Salman( MBS ), the Saudi crown prince who was widely blamed for the merciless assassination of correspondent Jamal Khashoggi last October. That would be a shocking- and highly controversial- time, which is why Saudis are signalling furiously that it is not going to happen. Still, the meeting with Netanyahu in Warsaw ran well beyond anything that has taken place before. The abnormal is tailor-made normal.

The original impetus for these developing relationships between Israel and the Gulf districts was a mutual abhorrence for Barack Obama. In the early years of the Arab spring, he infuriated the Saudis and the UAE, and horrified Israel, by abandoning Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak, and then voiced 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 governments. 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 friend in Damascus, and its endorsement of Hezbollah in Lebanon- Iran’s” axis of resistance”- was regarded 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 moved the same arguing:” 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 justification because there was a sense of being left to fend for ourselves. Unwittingly, Obama lent 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 positions has never happened in our history, even though we signed peace agreements ,” 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 period .” As Dore Gold, Netanyahu’s former national security consultant, elaborated with a smile, these terms are” very carefully drafted to give a positive message without spilling the beans .”

The priority for the Saudis and their friends is refusing 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 likened Obama’s nuclear batch to the Munich agreement of 1938- and after Trump abandoned it last summer, Netanyahu signalled Israel’s readiness to assembled an” international bloc” against Tehran.” We were raised to see Israel as an foe that occupied Arab countries ,” disagrees an Emirati analyst.” The world 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 ardours .”

There is also a pragmatic acknowledgment in Gulf capitals of the benefits of security, technological and economic been linked to an unassailably powerful Israel- not only for their own purpose, but too because of the US approval that fetches. Israel understands ties with the Gulf as a significant channel of supporting its own affect in Washington.” It can doubt that its scope of application of( US) aid to Arab countries could have been preserved without the support of Aipac( the central pro-Israel hallway radical) and Jewish organisations ,” intimates 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) remains a dirty word of billions of Arabs, which is why autocratic Gulf leaders dread favourite opposition to their 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 the territories occupied in 1967, with Occupied east jerusalem as its capital. But even this is far more than Netanyahu will ever admitted: he will consider exclusively a Palestinian “state-minus”, and openly refuses to destroy the illegal villages that divide the West Bank into disconnected districts. Netanyahu’s numerous Israeli reviewers- enraged over the corruption accusations 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 absolutely ignoring the existential crisis in Israel’s own backyard- its ongoing failure to make peace with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s meeting with the Saudis and Emiratis in Warsaw was not the first dramatic public glimpse of this changing Middle Eastern reality. Last October, the Israeli prime minister held talks in Muscat, the capital city of Oman, with its sovereign, Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The following day, his Likud party colleague, the culture and sports priest Miri Regev, was seeing Abu Dhabi in the UAE, while at the same age Israeli contestants were emulating 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 suit and secure, was considered exchanging remarks with the sultan, in a turban and traditional grey dishdasha garb. The Israeli leader’s partner, Sara, was there with other representatives of his delegating, including an listless middle-aged husband announced Yossi Cohen, head of the Mossad intelligence service.

During Regev’s stay in Abu Dhabi, where Israel’s surface judo unit was participating in a tournament, she sobbed on camera as Hatikvah, Israel’s national hymn( the Hebrew paroles are about yearning for Zion) was played. Later she toured the palatial Sheikh Zayed mosque, commemorating the UAE’s founder, a loyal follower of the Palestinian cause. These two Israeli ministerial his trip to Gulf uppercases afforded a potent boost to the notion of dramatic 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 backlash. Six Palestinians were killed and 180 disabled by Israeli army snipers on the frontiers of the Gaza Strip, where weekly affirms now challenge the blockade imposed on the 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 jabbed us in the figurehead and the back, abandoning us politically while embracing Israel ,” complained the Palestinian activist Kamel Hawwash.” Israeli flags could soon be operating in the skies of some Gulf territories, while they push the Palestinian leadership into accepting a’ treaty’ treat that is unacceptable .” He described” sickening images of a beam … Netanyahu- the heads of state of an dictatorial apartheid state, 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 president to visit Muscat. The Labor prime minister Yitzhak Rabin met Qaboos in 1994, as did his heir Shimon Peres. But in the mid-1 990 s the Oslo peace process, albeit flawed 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 joyous culminate 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 eventually shed in the towel. That is a very significant difference.

But despite these recent flashes of advertising, hard evidence of Israeli ties with the Gulf regimes is still rare- 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 emphasise that they do not have bilateral relations. Avi Gabbay, lead of the opposition parties Labor party, held talks there last-place December. Netanyahu is thought to have met Emirati rulers 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 impression of Israel’s close relationship with the US, but likewise due to their sense that they can count on Israel against Iran ,” an Israeli diplomat mentioned in 2009, adding that in general Gulf Arabs” conceive Israel can work magical “.

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 censored anyone identified as Israeli from recruiting the country, even if they were walking on a foreign passport. But it wasn’t long before discreet diplomatic and business attaches resumed.” In such cases you are only keep your leader down and wait until everything there is blows over ,” said a Swiss-based Israeli businessman. In 2013 the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, spoke from Jerusalem via satellite to 29 the ministers for foreign affairs of Arab and Muslim countries attending an Abu Dhabi conference.

The Israelis softly participated in joint military exercises with UAE troops, both in the US and in Greece, from 2016. Last time UAE military personnel reportedly called 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 the sale of Israeli drones used throughout this conflict in Yemen.

Israel’s confederations in the Arabian Gulf

But the clearest evidence of overlapping attentions between the Gulf and Israel has come in occasional public explanations from Gulf officials. In the island kingdom of Bahrain, where the Sunni Al Khalifa monarchy oppresses a Shia majority and complains were crushed by Saudi intervention in 2011, the foreign minister faced censure last year when he spoke of Israel’s right to defend itself after Iranian rockets were launched from Syria. On Arabic-language social media, foes of normalisation exploded in anger. But in late 2017, when Trump told the controversial decision to move the American 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, may be Netanyahu’s next GCC destination.

Qatar, the dissenter of the peninsula, has long reacted more independently, and more so since a coalition that includes Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt foisted a blockade on Qatar in 2017, to push 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 character in interceding between Israel and Hamas, which restricts Gaza, with Qatar’s emissary delivering suitcases substance with millions of dollars in cash to pay official salaries 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 also get on severely 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 feel, however, that the sultan’s request was about advertising his pro-Israel credentials to Washington, where Trump’s hawkish national insurance crew is suspicious of Oman’s ties to the Islamic Republic. Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, disclosed subsequently that he had been warned 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. Hunch 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 immensely 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 trade secrets uranium enrichment facility is an indication that Iran had not vacated its nuclear passions. This sharpened the emphasis placed on the Islamic Republic’s regional ideals, including threats 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 “ministers ” Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005 implicated Syria and the Iranian-backed Shia organisation Hezbollah. In January 2006, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad filled 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 repudiate the Holocaust- described by one commentator as” a impudent ordinance of one-upmanship that left the Al Saud[ Saudi Arabia’s governing family] humbled and unable to respond “.

The key important turning point was the 2006 campaign between Israel and Hezbollah. The 34 -day conflict celebrated a step-change in regional dynamics. Riyadh deplored Hezbollah’s incursion into Israel and abduction of two Israeli soldiers, describing it not as” lawful defiance” but a” overestimated escapade “. The Saudis and Israelis had a” common interest in coping Hezbollah and Iran a serious jolt ,” recollected Daniel Kurtzer, who had been American ambassador to Israel until the previous year. Officially sanctioned Saudi clergymen excoriated Hezbollah, while rivals of Saudi Arabia’s lords” hijacked upon the battle to spotlit the prudence, immobility, impiety and- some occurrences, illegitimacy- of the Saudi regime ,” as a subsequently study concluded. In August, Assad insulted the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan as “half-men” because of their hostility to the Lebanese militia.

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

Secret diplomacy between Israel and pro-western Arab positions then intensified. In mid-September 2006, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, travelled to the Jordanian uppercase, Amman, to convene Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the long-standing Saudi ambassador to Washington DC, known as “Bandar Bush” because of his close links to the presidential clas. Now he was national insurance consultant to King Abdullah. Back in Riyadh, the Saudis were enraged when news leaked of the convene- as a former senior Israeli intelligence official “ve told me”- and denied it had taken place. Publicly, Olmert said only that “hes been” ” highly impressed by various moves and statements connected with Saudi Arabia “. Nor did he refer to meeting Bandar when he publicized his memoir a decade eventually.( Israel’s clandestine relations with Arab countries are still considered a national insurance topic by the military censorship authorities and a ministerial committee that veterinarians publications by acting 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 strategy 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 states were in the same craft ,” celebrated David Meidan, who ranged Mossad’s international department.

” All of a sudden the Mossad was educating Farsi ,” a former intelligence official marvelled. It was reported around this time that a join had been convened in the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba between Dagan, Bandar and the is chairman of Jordanian intellect, who chose to” build up and accelerate ability exchanges” to cope with Iranian threats. The conspicuous attendance of Dagan’s heir Yossi Cohen- nicknamed” the modeling” because of his fashionable dress- 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 told me that security threats from Iran today had a unifying impact comparable to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which led to a previously unacceptable US military attendance in Saudi Arabia.” If it wasn’t for the Palestinian issue ,” the ex-diplomat said,” such relationships with Israel would be very public, and it would be very welcome, because we need their armed gear and technology .”

Jamal al-Suwaidi, the founder of the government-backed Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, placed 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 light of these new challenges, threats and troubles that face countries of the region .” Similarly, he contributed, the question of Israel was not comparable to the” threats posed … by Iran, Hezbollah and terrorist groups “.

There is still audible disagreement in the Gulf over the developing rapprochement with Israel.” I am against normalisation ,” insists Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a Dubai political scientist.” I am against falling 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 in the mind .” One indication, however, of UAE priorities can be found in the strict position dominates imposes on media: news locates affiliated with Qatar and Iran are obstructed, but Israeli websites are not.

In addition to shared disregard for Iran, the Gulf states and Israel have been brought together by a common strife 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 an important source for these tales, 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 intifada, or Palestinian mutiny, in 2000, but discreet ties continued .)

Many important developments in the evolving relationship between Israel and the Gulf have gone unreported because they are masked by self-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, however, Riyadh appeared to agree in further Israeli military action against Hamas, in the form of airstrikes against Iranian arms escorts in Sudan en route to Gaza. Revealed US cables evidenced the Israelis attached a diplomatic expedition to stop weapons being delivered. When that flunked, they propelled long-distance raids across the Red Sea into Sudan in early 2009, but crucially contributed 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 subjects from Israel and the Gulf countries were collaborating “. The same sources establish, as has been occasionally 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 strike on Iran’s nuclear installation, before the relevant recommendations was abandoned because of Obama’s opposition in 2012.

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

Israeli entrepreneurs expending 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 roams to Arab districts with an EU passport.

AGT International, owned by Israeli Mati Kochavi, provisioned electronic fencings and surveillance material 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 when it firstly 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 businesses 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 quietly hired Israeli corporations, particularly in its own security sphere. One Israeli house was a subcontractor on the hi-tech obstacle fabricated from 2014 by the European apology giant EADS along the kingdom’s perimeter with Iraq, a senior veteran of Israel’s defence establishment revealed in an interview.

In 2012, when hackers breached the computer organisation of Saudi Aramco, “the member states national” petroleum corporation, Israeli ventures were called in. Israel apparently sold monotones to Saudi Arabia via South Africa, but denied that it had exchanged its” Iron Dome” structure to defend the kingdom from weapon attacks by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels 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 officers of US-allied militaries. The Saudis denied the story.

Buildings hit by Houthi rockets in Najran, Saudi Arabia, August 2016. Picture: Reuters

Intelligence cooperation between Israel and the Gulf countries is even more secretive- although Israeli politicians and officials do refer to it occasionally. In late 2017, Israel’s army chief of staff established headlines where reference is offered to share intelligence on Iran with Saudi Arabia- noting that their countries shared” many common interests “. Western informants support the existence of such cooperation.” The Israeli intelligence kinfolks who have gone to these countries have met the leaders ,” said a former elderly US diplomat.” They know each other quite well .” Obama’s firstly secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, reportedly” knew that the UAE and Saudi Arabia were … cooperating with each other 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 scope for propaganda purposes. As one well connected Saudi journalist tweeted, with typical dismissiveness:” Fetishising non-existent collaboration between #Saudi/ GCC states and #Israel has become a trend in western media/ thinktank circles .” Foreign governments close to both countries guess 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 relationship which can create more elderly contact and a most strategic outlook on both sides .”

It is a somewhat open secret. In 2013, Bandar bin Sultan, by then passing Saudi General Intelligence, gratified the then Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, for what a elderly British root 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 ,” functional specialists intelligence newsletter reported in 2016. Saudi officials were said to be as “pleased as punch”.

On the Saudi side, nonetheless, there are grumbles that the relationship is an unequal one. Israel, it is said, has not ever responded to requests for intellect, even when deferred via the US. And there are indeed indications of an internal debate in Israel about the value of links with the territory. 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 difficulty ,” mused another knowledge 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 join 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 supported to crown prince.

In 2016 Israel established 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” continued threat from militant radicals … instantly supported by the totalitarian government of Iran ,” he argued. The $500 bn Neom megacity projection, near the borders of Jordan, Egypt and Israel, lured strong Israeli concern. The Straits of Tiran, the obstruction of which by Egypt’s PresidentGamal Abdel Nasser provoked the 1967 campaign , now faced a brighter future, showed the commentator Abdelrahman al-Rashed,” one where peacefulnes and prosperity dominate “.

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 muted response in Riyadh. The president’s” eventual cope” to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict considered by his son-in-law Jared Kushner with MBS. Subsequent discloses drawn attention to a crucial role for the Saudis in pushing the Palestinians. And when the crown prince made a three-week errand to the US last spring, he gave 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 national priorities compared to confronting Iran. MBS also explicitly recognise Jewish claims to Israel, proclaiming:” 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. 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 referred the al-Quds( Jerusalem) top.” In Saudi Arabia, the tycoon is the one who decides on this issue now , not the crown prince ,” as a elderly Arab diplomat justified. 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, however were other mansions 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 qualification.” Kerry questioned the Saudis to let[ Israeli airline] El Al tent-fly over their territory ,” reflected 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 adoration them or rely them but because it is an issue for their people and the religious constitution- and too because of their position vis-a-vis Iran .” Nevertheless, it fitted the narrative that Netanyahu has been eagerly promoting, that relations with key Arab nations were” improving beyond imagery” irrespective of the Palestinian question. In June the Saudi intelligence director Khalid bin Ali al-Humaidan reportedly assembled Kushner and Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt, as well as the Mossad’s Yossi Cohen and his Palestinian Authority, Jordanian and Egyptian counterparts, in Aqaba to discuss regional security.

These increasingly cosy relations suffered a serious punch with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018. Amid international disapproval and constantly changing Saudi responses, the Israeli authority was initially silent. When Netanyahu eventually addressed the issue, he deplored a “horrendous” occurrence, but informed it is necessary to that Saudi Arabia are stable- which was more or less exactly what Trump said, very. 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 is my conviction that if he wants to assassinate people again- say captains of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards- he’ll consult beings with some relevant know-how ,” wrote its own security expert Ronen Bergman. Surveillance equipment manufactured by the Israeli company NSO was supposedly been applied to track the Saudi journalist, according to the Washington Post. And one of the two top aide-de-camps to MBS “whos” blamed for the time of killing was “the worlds biggest” 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 quietly inspect 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 participates is a statement of our settlement for a free Palestine ,” mentioned the correspondent Tariq al-Maeena.” As the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, Saudi Arabia carries the load of the Islamic world and this form of commitment is needed for ward off grandiose Zionist designings for individual regions .” Last December the Saudis even opposed a UN resolution decry Hamas, along with all other Arab states.

Among the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, alarm appeared to have abated. Speculation about how far MBS will dare to go in embracing Israel is no more than” gossipy innuendo”, said here Palestinian ambassador in London, Husam Zomlot, who was thrown out of Washington as part of the US offensive against the PLO. Saeb Erekat, the PLO’s director delegate, spurned the” imperialist imaginations 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 fastening to his write: call Chad in January, he boasted that Israel’s relations with that country had been renewed in the face of Iranian and Palestinian opponent, and that it was the result of improving been linked to 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 moment was made by the Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, another ex-spymaster.” Israeli public opinion should not be fooled 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 reasoning with popular sentiment, because it has not offered anything approaching an acceptable deal for the Palestinians.” Everyone are all aware of 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 analyst in Abu Dhabi.” The premise is that if it was going to happen openly, it would have to be in return for something large-hearted, and it does not look as though that is going to happen .”

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


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