Saudi Arabia is seeking to buy Israeli defense systems and working with Israel to prevent Iran’s expansion in the Middle East, according to the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung.
Basler Zeitung reported on Monday (Jan 8) a “secret alliance” between Saudi Arabia and Israel, intended “to restrain Iran’s expansion in the region, despite the absence of any official relations between the two countries.”
The paper said the two countries are cooperating significantly in the areas of military issues and security on strategic issues, despite the fact that they have no open diplomatic ties.
“For the time being, Riyadh rejects any official normalization of relationships with Israel as long as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not resolved and normalization has not been publicly declared by Arab countries and thus there will be no exchange of ambassadors,” Pierre Heumann, the newspaper’s correspondent in Israel said in his report.
“There is an intensive secret cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel in order to achieve the main goal of curbing Iran’s expansion project and undermining its regional ambitions,” Heumann said. He added that “there exists indeed military cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Tel Aviv.”
According to Middle East experts, the unifying security factor that has animated Israel and Saudi Arabia to intensify military cooperation is the Iranian regime’s “jingoism in the Middle East”.
“Both want to hold back the regional ambitions of Iran,” wrote Heumann.
The Swiss daily also claimed that Riyadh requested Israel examine the possibility of acquiring, including through a third party, anti-tank defense systems and the Iron Dome anti-missile system.
According to the newspaper, “Riyadh seeks to intercept missiles coming from Yemen. Observers from Tel Aviv and Riyadh are confirming that cooperation between the security services of Israel and Saudi Arabia is very advanced, although Saudi Arabia has been officially denying any sort of cooperation with Israel,” as the newspaper put it.
The Swiss newspaper also said “the Saudi elite has abandoned its fears of overt contact with representatives of Israel long time ago.” CIA Director Mike Pompeo announced in early December last year that Saudi Arabia is working directly with Israel and other Sunni countries in the field of fighting terrorism.
Recently, there were several reports of Israeli and Saudi officials meeting, though neither side disclosed the topics discusses. The Swiss report claims that in October, intelligence officials from both countries met in order to tighten cooperation, and discussed holding an additional meeting with intelligence leaders of both countries.
The newspaper pointed out that a number of Saudi prominent figures met up with Israeli officials in public. In October, the two former Intelligence chiefs in Israel and Saudi Arabia met to exchange views about the US policy in the region. The newspaper noted that former Saudi Intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal held talks with former “Mossad” chief Efraim Halevy. Al-Faisal was even ready to participate with his Israeli counterpart at a symposium at the Jewish Community Centre in New York.
Israeli General’s interview
In November, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot gave an interview to the Saudi Arabian news site Elaph, stating that “the real and greatest threat in the region is Iran, which has three important issues that need to be acted upon.
The first is its nuclear programme, which has been temporarily frozen, but there is no doubt about Iran’s intentions to achieve nuclear capabilities.
Second, Iran’s imposing its influence on various regions and third, its supplying arms [to proxies] to carry out missions, such as to Hezbollah, the Houthis, and Islamic Jihad.
He also said Israel is prepared to share intelligence with the Gulf kingdom in their joint efforts to curb Iranian influence in the region.
How long before the Israeli flag flies over Riyadh?
At a MEMO (The Middle East Monitor) conference in November 2017 entitled “Crisis in Saudi Arabia: War Succession and Future”, UK-based Palestinian Prof. Kamel Hawwash asked Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed of the London School of Economics if she thought that the Israeli flag would be flying over Riyadh within the next two years.
“In terms of an Israeli flag in Makkah or in Riyadh,” she replied, “well, you don’t need to raise the flag to have contacts.”
Prof. Kamel Hawwash wrote, “My question was of course about the symbolism of the Israeli flag flying in Riyadh. Would the young pretender to the Saudi throne, Mohammed Bin Salman, actually establish formal, above the table relations with the Zionist state?”
There have, of course, been robust reports of growing normalization between Israel and Gulf States, essentially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Hawwash said adding: They have included an “unofficial” visit to Israel by retired Saudi General Anwar Eshki in 2016; he met the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Director General and a group of Knesset members to “encourage dialogue in Israel on the Arab Peace Initiative.”
While Saudi Arabia continues to deny any contact with Israel, evidence is mounting to the contrary. In an interview on Army Radio, Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, confirmed but did not characterize the contacts or give details when asked why Israel was “hiding its ties” with Saudi Arabia. “We have ties that are indeed partly covert with many Muslim and Arab countries,” he explained, “and usually (we are) the party that is not ashamed. It’s the other side that is interested in keeping the ties quiet. With us, usually, there is no problem, but we respect the other side’s wish, when ties are developing, whether it’s with Saudi Arabia or with other Arab countries or other Muslim countries, and there is much more … (but) we keep it secret.”
In exchange for cooperation with the Trump Administration and Israel to combat the perceived threat from Iran, Saudi Arabia seems to be willing to sacrifice Palestinian rights. In fact, it is ready to throw Palestinians to the dogs. It is reported that when Bin Salman recently “summoned” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh it was to tell him either to accept the “ultimate peace deal” —which will be made in Israel and marketed by Trump — or resign.
What the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince and all other normalizers appear to ignore is that Israel takes and never gives. It will take normalization but give nothing in exchange. If they think that Israeli jets will ever fly over Riyadh or Abu Dhabi to protect its newly found allies from a fictitious Iranian air strike, then they are deluded. They only need to look at Egypt and Jordan, the two Arab states which have long normalized relations with Israel, to see which party has benefited from their peace deals.
Mohammad Bin Salman would do better to support the BDS movement against Israel rather than normalise Saudi Arabia’s relations with the Zionist state; that is, if he is serious about supporting the Palestinians to attain their rights. Moreover, if Mahmoud Abbas has to choose between accepting an unacceptable deal or resign, then I say to him resign now with honor, before the Israeli flag is indeed flying proudly on the Riyadh skyline.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net). He is the author of several books including Islam & Muslims in the 21st Century published in 2017.