Riyadh, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular, would approve any kind of Israeli-Palestinian deal to finally get rid of this “PR obstacle” and unite with Tel Aviv against Tehran, a former security advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu believes.
While officially Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations, more than a decade ago Riyadh proposed an initiative which would see the normalization of relations between Arab nations and Israel. Among its demands, the Arab Peace Initiative, endorsed by the Arab League, calls on the Jewish state to withdraw from the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and achieve “a just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem.”
Despite the reinstatement of pre-1967 borders still being the primary reference point in any discussions for a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia will likely accept any kind of deal between the rivals, believes Brig. Gen. Yaakov Nagel, who served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security director from January 2016 until May 2017.
“Everyone knows that the Arab Peace Initiative doesn’t have any meaning. There are things inside that don’t hold water,” Nagel said this week. “They [Saudis] just have to say there’s an agreement between Israel and Palestine. They don’t care; they don’t give a damn what will be the agreement.”
But Saudi Arabia will face a PR problem if it seeks closer ties with Israel, so it is ready to endorse any piece of paper as a legitimate deal to claim that the Palestinian issue is resolved and it is time to move on, believes Nagel.
“They don’t like [the Palestinians] more than us or less than us. They need to say that there is an agreement in order to take next steps [toward normalization]. So this is still an obstacle,” Nagel said, adding that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is leading the country in the right direction.
Relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia have witnessed a seeming rapprochement this month, after Saudi Arabia accused Iran and its regional Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, of meddling in Middle Eastern affairs and arming the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Israel has long viewed Iran and Hezbollah along the same lines, and a threat to its own existence.
Just this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel is covertly cooperating with some Arab nations. Ties with the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, were also confirmed recently by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz. Earlier in November, IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot, told Saudi Arabia’s Alaf newspaper that his country was ready to share “intelligence information” with Riyadh on Tehran.
However, despite such unprecedented developments Saudi Arabia firmly rejects reports that it is working with Israel. “The Arab conditions are clear — two states with a Palestinian state whose capital is East Jerusalem. As for other issues, they can be worked out between Israelis and Palestinians. Arab nations’ position has always supported the Palestinian brothers. That remains the Arab position,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Egypt’s CBC television on Monday.