The reasons for Saudi Arabia’s gravitation toward Israel
Iran and Saudi Arabia have experienced a great deal of tension in their relations in recent years. These tensions started with the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr (a Shia cleric who opposed the Saudi regime) and peaked when a number of Iranian Anti-Saudi protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Following these events, diplomatic relations between the two countries have been completely severed. Iran and Saudi Arabia are also engaged in proxy wars in Syria and Yemen. Moreover, they compete for diplomatic influence in the internal policies of Lebanon and Iraq. All of these issues have led Saudi Arabia to think about creating a regional coalition against Iran. Riyadh tried to persuade Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to form such a coalition, but failed for various reasons.
But the truth is that Israel is much closer to the regional goals of Saudi Arabia than other Arab countries. They have common goals including:
- Preventing Iranian influence in the region
- Countering the spread of the Muslim Brotherhood’s version of Islam
- Trying to stop Russia’s dominance in the Middle East
These goals have made Israel and Saudi Arabia major partners in the Middle East. With the addition of the UAE, this group will have a complete military, economic and diplomatic triangle.
Netanyahu’s trips to Arab countries in recent months
Netanyahu has recently revealed that in the past year he traveled to four Arab countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel to form an important front for combating Tehran. Oman is known to have been one of the destinations, while the names of the other three countries remain undisclosed. However, given Netanyahu’s purpose and Israel’s current diplomatic relations with Egypt and Jordan, the three countries not disclosed by Netanyahu are probably Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain or Kuwait.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met today in Warsaw with the Sultanate of Oman’s Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi.
PM Netanyahu: “The courageous decision of Sultan Qaboos to invite me to Oman is changing the world. It’s pointing the way for many others” pic.twitter.com/OYgRSBSX2T
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) 13 февраля 2019 г.
Netanyahu has stated that he will soon make more trips to other Arab countries. Evidently, Netanyahu is aiming to break the taboo of Israel-Arab relations. One of the most important efforts toward this end was the Warsaw Conference.
The Warsaw Conference and efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Arab countries
The Warsaw Conference was at first intended to be an anti-Iran conference, but with the absence of influential Middle Eastern countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, it changed into a show where Israel tried to normalize relations between Israel and Arabs. In a meeting with his Saudi and Bahraini counterparts, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates confirmed Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian threats. In another incredible event during the conference, Khaled al-Yamani who represents the illegal government of Yemen backed by Saudi Arabia, sat right next to Netanyahu. He did this to indirectly confirm Israel’s support for the illegal government of Yemen.
Houthis just had a new reason to mock the Yemeni “legitimate” government w/ these pics after FM Khaled al-Yamani sat next to Netanyahu at #WarsawSummit
These little failures, let alone the big ones, will eventually lead to the defeat of this ill-managed government. pic.twitter.com/IBfbLs83bR
— Afrah Nasser (@Afrahnasser) 14 февраля 2019 г.
These two major events took place to evaluate the reaction of the people of Arab countries to the normalization of relations with Israel. If their reaction was positive, the project of the normalization of Israel-Arab relations would enter new stages.
The greatest challenge for the normalization of Arab-Israeli ties is the public opinion of Arab countries that consider the Israeli regime to be the biggest threat to Islam and Muslims in the world. Positive ties could make it very difficult for rulers of Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia.
The consequences of the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab countries
The first consequence of this is that Palestine will be forgotten. Arab countries in the Middle East claim to be supporters of the oppressed Palestinians whose lands have been occupied, but the formation of any diplomatic relations with Israel will not allow them to confront Israel on the issue. We will then witness the silence of Arab countries against the crimes committed by the Israeli regime.
Another consequence will be economic. Israel receives the greatest portion of its oil requirements from the Iraqi Kurdistan which is not a reliable source. Normalization of relations with Arabs can provide all of Israel’s energy needs. After the US, Israel has the highest number of startup companies in the Nasdaq Stock Market. It would not be a surprise to see Arab countries forced by the US to give all of their oil projects to Israeli companies.
An Arab-Israeli ‘NATO’ against Iran
The plan for an Arab NATO was first announced in 1988 by the Minister of Defense and Military Production of Egypt. It has been one of Saudi Arabia’s projects to form an international coalition that pursues two major goals:
- Creating a military threat against Iran
- Eliminating Saudi Arabia’s military and diplomatic weaknesses in the international arena
Israel will also join this coalition for two major reasons:
- Creating a military threat against Iran
- Gaining influence in Arab countries
Evidently, countering Iran is the joint objective of Israel and these Arab countries. This is also a long-term goal for the US in the Middle East. American authorities have repeatedly proposed regime change in Iran for the past forty years.
Iran has military influence in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen. Israel considers this to be a major threat to its existence and therefore is trying to form an Arab NATO with the help of the US. This new ‘NATO’ is supposed to become a threat against Iran with Israel’s support.
It is possible that no war will ever break out between Middle Eastern countries and Iran, but Israeli authorities hope that a coalition between Israel and the Arab NATO will force Iran to withdraw from the countries where it does have influence.
Behind the scenes
The Middle East is inherently full of tensions for the following reasons:
- Due to the presence of powerful players in the region, forming a relationship with any other county would mean the strengthening of these countries and the weakening of others. For example, if Iran and Turkey establish friendly relations, it would weaken Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and if Saudi Arabia and Pakistan form a relationship, it would weaken players in the opposite front.
- The occurrence of frequent wars over the past sixty years in the Middle East has forced the regional players to focus on security parameters instead of political and social ones.
- The social structure of the Middle East encompasses ethnic, religious and historical conflicts that keep tensions high.
The United States of America has always wanted to plunder the oil and gas of the Middle East. Therefore, it supports its allies in their efforts against the opposing front consisting of Iran, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. The three troublesome factors mentioned above helped the US pursue its objectives in backing its allies through proxy wars, including Yemen, Iraq and Syria.
Many consider the 2006 Lebanon War, the 2008 Gaza war, the Saudi Arabian–led intervention in Yemen and the Syrian Civil War to be proxy wars between Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran. Meanwhile, John Bolton has repeatedly spoken about an attack on Iran to change the regime outright.
From this point of view, an Israeli-Arab NATO is a solution to help win proxy wars with Iran and other countries opposing the US policies. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Israel, as Donald Trump stated, will remain the US’ milk cows.
Following this course of action, the US’ control over the oil wells of the Middle East would continue alongside the relative security of their allies. Furthermore, such an alliance would decrease the influence of Iran, Turkey and Russia.