Riyadh Rolling out the Red Carpet for Tel Aviv

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Seyed Reza Ghazvini Ghorabi
Middle East Analyst

The presence and delivery of a speech by the former head of Saudi Arabia’s secret service and a middleman in Riyadh-Tel Aviv relations, Turki al-Faisal, at the recent conference held by the terrorist Mujahedeen Khalq Organization (MKO) in Paris, can be assessed not only in terms of what was said about Iran, but also from a more important viewpoint, that is, Saudi Arabia’s relations with Israel. Of course, Faisal dedicated much of his 27-page speech to leveling charges against the Islamic Republic of Iran and presenting historical realities in an upside-down manner, but his serious verbal attack against all jihadist groups in Palestine can be considered as part of the evident and progressing process of détente between Saudi Arabia and Israel and a sign of Riyadh’s effort to normalize the two sides’ relations. In his speech, Faisal equated Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement with such terrorist groups as al-Qaeda and the Japanese Red Army, describing all of them as tribal and armed groups. By doing this, he proved that the Al Saud ruling family is not only at loggerheads with the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, but has serious problem even with such Sunni Palestinian groups as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad with the common denominator of all these groups being their incessant struggles against Israel.

A review of the background of relations between leaders of Saudi Arabia and Israel and their meetings in past few years will reveal that Saudis have been taking advantage of any opportunity, even shaking hands with the Israeli officials, to shatter the taboo surrounding relations with Israel and have taken steps toward normalization of those ties. The existing evidence also shows that during the past two years, the two sides have done their utmost to engage in dialogue and cooperate in regional issues. Last June, the Bloomberg reported that during the previous 17 months, six meetings had been held between Saudi and Israeli officials in such countries as India, Italy and the Czech Republic.

Early this year, Anwar Eshki, a retired Saudi general and former advisor to Bandar bin Sultan, who is the current chairman of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, met and conferred with Dore Gold, a director general at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. During the meeting, which cannot be certainly considered a personal meeting held without coordination with officials in Riyadh, Eshki talked about Riyadh’s condition for opening its embassy in Tel Aviv. However, Turki al-Faisal should be considered as the pioneer and main middleman trying to establish relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel as he has frequently and openly met with many Israeli officials. Faisal’s meeting with the then Israeli president, Shimon Peres, in 2003, during which he had asked for an opportunity to hold a public meeting with the Israeli side is among those cases, which show that Saudi officials are very eager to establish relations with Israel and the background of such contacts predates the aforesaid meeting. Faisal also met and conferred with Danny Ayalon, the then Israeli deputy foreign minister, during the Munich Security Conference.

Afterwards, Saudi Arabian officials continued their contacts and meetings with Israel’s officials at various levels through Faisal. A meeting with Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel's military intelligence, and an official and bilateral meeting with Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid Party, proved that Saudi officials are trying to open various avenues in their relations with Israelis and would not just suffice to contacts with state officials. Last winter and during the Munich Security Conference, once again, Saudi Arabia’s seasoned middleman went toward the then Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya'alon, to show through shaking hands with him that Riyadh persists on getting close to Tel Aviv and is promoting the idea of compromise with Israel in the Arab world. The latest instance of public meetings between the two sides, which contained very important points, took place this May. It was a meeting between Faisal and General Yaakov Amidror, a former security advisor to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The remarks made by the two sides in that meeting are so important, which can be considered as the manifest of Riyadh-Tel Aviv relations and reflective of the two sides’ aspirations and their feelings toward each other.

While inviting the Saudi side to visit the city of al-Quds, Amidror revealed that Saudi officials have on various occasions held many meetings with Israeli officials in Israel. For his part, the former head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency used the issue of peace talks between Palestinians and Israel and the failure of those talks as an excuse, noting that absence of diplomatic relations with Israel is a regrettable reality for Saudis, which does not benefit either side. There is no doubt that the current critical conditions facing Riyadh and its frequent failures in the region have caused Al Saud and Tel Aviv to try to find common interests. A large part of these common interests is related to the issue of containing Iran and in order to get close to Israel and cooperate with it on this issue, Saudi Arabia has had to clearly give up many of its past slogans, including on the issue of Palestine. It goes without saying that when strategic interests of two sides and even their enemies are common, it would be inevitable for them to get close. As put by the retired Israeli general, Shimon Shapira, who was a member of an Israeli negotiating team with Saudi Arabia, “We have reached the conclusion with Saudis that our problems and challenges are common and some solutions to these problems are also common.”

Key WordsRiyadh, Red Carpet, Tel Aviv, Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia, Mujahedeen Khalq Organization (MKO), Paris, Israel, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Lebanese Hezbollah, Normalization, Relations, Anwar Eshki, Bandar bin Sultan, Danny Ayalon, Munich Security Conference, Amos Yadlin, Yaakov Amidror, Challenges, Solutions, Ghazvini Ghorabi

Source: Khorasan Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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