Israel-Saudi Arabia’s improved relationship

Israel-Saudi Arabia’s improved relationship
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamad bin Salman in a recent interview has officially recognized Israel’s right to exist. Israel is the world's only Jewish state..

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamad bin Salman in a recent interview has officially recognized Israel’s right to exist.

Background

Israel is the world's only Jewish state. The Jews staked claim for a land of their own due to religious reasons. They trace their origins to Abraham, who they consider as their patriarch. In the immediate aftermath of the creation of Israel, a war between Arab nations and Israel took place. The Arabs were initially on the offensive but their military resources dried up when the UN declared an arms embargo on the region. Major wars such as the War of Attrition, Yom Kippur War and the Gaza War have been fought over the years. Nearly every effort by the international community to establish peace in the region has failed.

However, Israel’s relationship with Iran in particular is adversarial in nature. The two nations started fighting in proxy wars against one another during the tenure of Mahmud Ahmedinijiad, the President of Iran from 2005 to 2013. In 2006, reports emerged that Iran had provided aid to Hezbollah fighters (a group that Israel considers a terrorist outfit) during the Lebanon War.

Sunni nations like Saudi Arabia also share an acrimonious relationship with Iran.

In the recent years, there appears to be a thawing in the ties between Israel and a number of Gulf nations. In 2015, Israel opened its first every diplomatic mission in the United Arab Emirates. Even though Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have any diplomatic ties, officials from both nations have engaged in meetings in 2017. In June 2017 Israel's intelligence and transportation minister, Yisrael Katz, called on Saudi Arabia's King Salman to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Riyadh to establish full diplomatic relations.

In 2017, BBC’s Jonathan Marcus, Defence and diplomatic correspondent wrote about the evolving nature of the Israel-Saudi ties by stating, “Saudi Arabia and Israel are de facto allies in the struggle against Iran’s rising influence in the region. It’s a developing but highly sensitive relationship, but every so often there is a hint of what may be going on beneath the surface.”

 

Analysis

In a controversial interview, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamad bin Salman has declared that Israeli citizens have a right to their own land and leave peacefully alongside Palestinians. In an interview with The Atlantic he was asked whether he believed Jewish people deserved a land of their own. He said, “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”

He added, “We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.”

The crown prince also noted that Israel and Saudi have common interests and peace in the region will change the demographics of the Middle East. He said, “Israel is a big economy compared to their size and it’s a growing economy, and of course there are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan.”

Assessment

Our assessment is that the camaraderie between Israel and Saudi Arabia is based on self-preservation. If the Arab nations are successful in establishing ties with Israel, it will completely transform the dynamics of the region. We feel that this new relationship will make Iran more hawkish and this could lead to more proxy wars fought between these nations.  

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