August 4, 2019

We can change this: We can lower gun violence

At these moments, after terrible, widely-publicized (or not) shootings in California, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Ohio, despair comes easily. We express horror, and we demand action. Most importantly, we ask why nothing ever changes, as if there is nothing we can do.

I am simply here to remind you that change can happen.

I know that because we see countless examples of countries that have no mass shootings. Many countries have widespread use of violent video games, widespread adoption of social media, and/or significant mental health issues in the general population and yet have no mass shootings. I am all for better mental health coverage – how about national legislation to guarantee affordable mental health coverage to all! – but that does not remove the need to address guns and the ideological framework that welcomes their use in such horrific ways.

I know that because the National Rifle Association is not invincible as it once seemed. We may not have the NRA on the ropes, but the pressure is on and cracks are appearing.

I know that because the grassroots gun reform movement is real, and growing, and national. It is in blue states and it is in red states. It is @MomsDemand (Moms Demand Action) and @Everytown (Everytown for Gun Safety) and Mothers United Against Violence and many other organizations. It is @AMarch4OurLives. It is people protesting, holding vigils, calling legislators, packing hearing rooms, testifying, donating, voting, and educating.

I know that because my state suffered a horrific mass shooting in 2012, when 26 people were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. I vividly remember the shock of the day. This can’t be true, can it? Six-year olds? But it was. And then, on July 28, 2019, there was Stephen Romero, age six, shot dead in Gilroy, California. Maybe when he passed, I thought, the kids who died at Sandy Hook gently held him in their arms.

And yet Connecticut has not stood still. In the face of Republicans repeatedly blocking sensible gun reform at the national level in Congress, the Connecticut legislature has moved forward with changes at the state level. Just this year, our governor signed into law three new items. As of October 1, 2019, guns must be safely stored in homes where there are minors, and guns left in an unattended vehicle must be stored in a trunk or other locked area. A new Connecticut law also prohibits ghost guns.

State and local laws are not enough, and cannot replace national action. Not every state effort will lead to new laws. But when successful, such efforts are an incremental advance. Even in defeat, they will further raise awareness, draw attention to the gun crisis, and build networks of like-minded people.

Yesterday, Kieran Healy, a professor of sociology at Duke University, wrote, “The United States has chosen, and continues to choose, to enact ritual compliance to an ideal of freedom in a way that results in a steady flow of blood sacrifice.”

I agree with him 100%. The language of choice means we live in a reality that can be changed. We can end the steady flow of blood sacrifice. Not in a day, not in a week, but over time. So mourn, memorialize, cry, get angry. And then use our democratic political system to make change happen.

July 20, 2018

US Effectively Ends Israel-Palestine Mediation

Back in December, I wrote that the Trump administration’s formal embrace of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital told us a lot about the kind of Israeli-Palestinian agreement they would put on the table. It would be close to the Netanyahu regime’s view.

The US administration still has not released such a proposal but as things have heated up between Gaza and Israel, the three key US officials on Israel-Palestine besides President Trump –  – have penned an op-ed that could have been written by Netanyahu or pretty much any Likudnik. It is a full-throated endorsement of the right-wing Israeli view of the situation with Gaza. In the whole op-ed, Israel is not an actor; it is only acted upon. The implication is Israel shares zero responsibility for the broken and deadly situation.

The reality is quite different. Neither Hamas nor the Government of Israel have been willing to negotiate – directly or through intermediaries – to make the kinds of concessions that would bring about a substantive change in the strategic situation. The instability, suffering, PTSD, and dead that are part of the status quo are a choice (contra the Likud view). The parties could pursue negotiations and change the reality in which they live. But they both have to make concessions.

What concessions you might ask? I think the Int’l Crisis Group has laid it out in great detail; I’d urge you to read their brief closely, both in terms of what it would take and in terms of the low odds of success:

This leaves one other main option, aside from war or continued escalations, and that is to have an intra-Palestinian reconciliation deal under which the PA fully takes over governance in Gaza, relieving Hamas of responsibility for the Gaza economy and providing Israel with an acceptable partner in Gaza with which it can cooperate on development and easing the blockade (Israel is unlikely to fully lift the blockade, even after the PA takes over).

Crisis Group is not optimistic, but the brief does offer a nuanced understanding of the situation on the ground and a reasoned consideration of the policy options. Kushner et al, the ones actually leading US policy, offer nothing of the sort.

In academic parlance, the United States has long been a ‘biased’ mediator in this conflict, closely allied with one of the parties to the dispute. This WaPo op-ed is beyond that; it offers no hint of a United States as mediator of any sort.

May 22, 2018

The Costs of Neglecting Diplomacy

From the start, the Trump administration has not taken diplomacy seriously. Or maybe that is an understatement; from the start, the Trump administration has been hostile toward diplomacy as a tool in the US foreign policy toolbox. Now we are starting to see the impact on real issues like in trade talks with China and on options for dealing with Iran.

If we think of diplomacy as seeking negotiated outcomes, being willing to make mutual concessions, and building the organizational capacity to pursue the first two points, this administration is not keen on diplomacy. Perhaps the idea conflicts with Pres. Trump’s bullying nature and Art of the Deal bravado. The Trump administration has gutted the main US diplomatic agency, the Department of State. The administration has been slow to fill State positions and multiple senior State professionals have resigned (e.g. Feeley). Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s isolation from the professionals and their expertise and the proposed budget cuts at State sent a clear message of disinterest and neglect.

President Trump may not care. Recall he told an interviewer that in terms of foreign policymaking, “I’m the only one that matters.” That attitude + twitter put US negotiators in a tough position, not knowing if and when they will be undercut or US policy will suddenly shift.

Frequently, however, we see the need for a functioning diplomatic apparatus that helps determine US policy (internally) and then negotiates with other parties. Trump is fine at unilateral policy but that doesn’t require diplomacy. He can withdraw from treaties (TPP, Paris climate accords) or move an embassy to Jerusalem, for example. But he has not had any successful negotiated agreement, nor signs that one is on the way. (And note that even when Trump took a step that an ally, Israel, welcomed, he did so unilaterally and thereby forfeited the possibility of getting an Israeli concession in return for moving the embassy.)

Two recent items suggest the problems with neglecting your diplomats. The first example is that even as Michael Singh applauded the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear agreement), he highlighted the power of multilateral sanctions. Singh himself noted the centrality of diplomacy in a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran: “As a senior U.S. official responsible for Iran policy from 2006 to 2008, I know from personal experience that even when the United States was strategically aligned with its diplomatic partners, sanctions required relentless diplomacy in order to be effective.” (emphasis added) Or, Singh, adds: “Diplomacy, not just market signals, will be required to amplify whatever pressure the United States can generate alone, and translate that pressure into policy outcomes.”

Especially given that the US is now NOT strategically aligned with its diplomatic partners on Iran, on what basis should we believe the US can practice relentless diplomacy? All the evidence suggests the opposite. Trump is an inattentive president not open to studying up on issues. The administration lacks a strong inter-agency foreign policy process. etc.

Given that the US is juggling multiple issues with China including trade, North Korea, and Iran, Singh writes, “Diplomacy will also be required to manage the policy tradeoffs looming on the horizon.” Yet on what international issue has the Trump administration set out clear priorities in the face of competing needs and demands?

Singh does write that “Conducting such diplomacy today will be difficult,” but, in his eyes, only because Washington’s European allies are unhappy with US policy. He makes no mention of the US administration’s hostility toward and neglect of diplomacy as an obstacle to its effective use.

In a second example, Ilan Goldenberg builds on a New York Times article about China-US talks to detail Trump administration diplomatic weakness in action. In short, the very things that worry me about Singh’s reliance on relentless diplomacy we learn have led to a mess for the US delegation to China-US negotiations. Some of Goldenberg’s thoughts:

Being part of the international system, let alone the leader of much of it, requires extensive consultation, information sharing, policy coordination, dispute management and resolution, priority setting, and the like with both friends and enemies (not to mention friends you treat like enemies and enemies you treat like friends). If the United States ignores those steps and, in some cases, even lacks the qualified personnel in place who would do such things, I fully expect this China-US example to serve as a template for what we should expect when the Trump administration negotiates.


November 17, 2017

Key Elements of Trump Foreign Policy

Ten months into the Trump administration, what are the key elements of Trump foreign policy? A few thoughts.

On policy issues, the Trump administration has favored

1) Downplaying human rights concerns and democracy promotion (e.g. warm embrace of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Philippines. Mostly quiet regarding Israeli settlements). Whether this de-emphasis is important depends in part on whether you think this is a rhetorical shift or a substantive change in US policy.

2) Replacing multilateral trade deals with, in theory, bilateral ones. The most prominent example was the US pullout from the TPP. I have not seen evidence of any new bilateral trade agreements or negotiations toward that end. (But I’m not a trade person so please let me know what I missed.)

3) Rejecting climate change science and action, whether that means pulling out of the Paris agreement or silencing US reports and scientists at EPA and elsewhere in the US government. This reminds me of a related domestic-international issue, the willingness to sacrifice US science leadership or university R&D leadership – and the related impact on the US economy and US innovation – in order to attack scientists and universities.

4) Making tighter borders, lowering immigration, and reducing refugee acceptance.  Deportations. Given the president’s expressed sympathy for white supremacists after Charlottesville, I’d guess this is a bigoted fear of people who are not white. Other words that come to mind include nativism and xenophobia. President Trump’s base likes his opposition to a multi-ethnic, global United States, and he is happy to oblige.

5) More amenable to sticking with current US allies after some early whinging about traditional European allies and burden-sharing. He seems to have adopted a new friend, Putin’s Russia. More to come on that one!

6) Possibly downplaying negotiations in potential conflict situations, e.g. Iran, North Korea, Israel-Palestine. But this hostility toward negotiating could vary, e.g. the recent report on future Israel-Palestine talks. Trump has been highly inconsistent regarding whether he thinks the United States should negotiate with North Korea.

Meanwhile, Secretary Rex Tillerson is emptying the State Department of experienced and capable diplomats. The loss of experience, unfilled positions, and disinterest in consulting expertise further undermines the diplomatic pathway. Overall – not just at State – how much strategic planning happening? For example, it is hard to discern any kind of vision for US policy toward the Middle East.

7) A heavy emphasis on military force. The dominant (literally) Trump view: coerce and threaten to get your way in international affairs. Including

  • increasing risk of nuclear war (Exhibit A: North Korea tweets)
  • threatening Iran. Is US war, with Saudi help or encouragement, versus Iran possible? Iraq 2002-2003 redux? Aside: With its ally in Riyadh, the US is allied with the weaker or less capable actor in the Iran-Saudi relationship. Iran has repeatedly outplayed the Saudis.
  • Continuing Obama military interventionist policy in several cases: vs ISIS in Iraq and Syria (with all the human suffering caused by US bombing); supporting Saudis in Yemen; continuing drone or other strikes in Somalia etc
  • Slight change in Afghanistan with a few thousand more US military personnel. But otherwise Trump policy seems similar.
  • What will the administration do in Syria and with ties to Syrian Kurds now that ISIS is in a much weaker? Trump seems content to not be deeply involved in the evolution of Syria, unlike Russia or Iran.

What would you add or modify?

September 20, 2017

Trump, what do you stand for? The UN speech a day later

President Trump’s speech at the United Nations yesterday was a muddle, with poorly-executed core concepts. The mismatch between the conceptual emphasis and the desired outcomes was on full display. What does he want in US foreign policy and how does he propose to get there? We do not know.

How can you trumpet sovereignty, over and over, and then make the red meat of your speech about the need to violate the sovereignty of countries? Trump wants sovereignty but he also wants to destroy North Korea and get regime change in Iran. He said the United States is “prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.” That is not respecting sovereignty.

I’m not here to protect the governments of Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, though saying you want to destroy “North Korea,” not the government of North Korea, does seem like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. (In order to save the people of North Korea from this horrid government, we must destroy the people.) But if the Trump administration’s aim is to change those countries, then the guiding principle should be one that actually could lead to the democratic and human rights-observant outcomes that the president wants.

The US pursuit of human rights and democracy has often been at odds with sovereignty. That is why many people in the world see the United States as a hegemon or bully, precisely because they feel Washington has not respected sovereignty for decades as it sought to impose US values (democracy, political rights, freedom) on other countries without their consent. The sanctity of sovereignty is exactly the argument that brutal dictators use to protect themselves, to argue that do-gooder US presidents and, as is often the case, the armed forces sent to represent them, should stay away.

In short, these lines are pure gobbledygook: “America stands with every person living under a brutal regime. Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action.” The first and second sentences contradict each other. Which is it?

I’m not even sure if President Trump does want democracy and human rights. Yes, he talked about it at the United Nations. At other times he has derided the active US pursuit of human rights and democracy. Remember that in Saudi Arabia, Trump said, “We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.” Saudi Arabia! Is it unfair to ask for some clarity on the basic aims of Trump policy?

Maybe Trump’s appeal to sovereignty, and the associated ideas of nationalism, was pushback against fears the United Nations and other international institutions are efforts to limit US freedom of action and, thus, limit the exercise of the prerogative associated with a sovereign global power. But then the president needed to make that connection and somehow explain why only the United States can resort to claims of sovereignty.

I do agree with others that China and Russia will appreciate Trump’s emphasis on sovereignty. As in, United States, stop meddling in our affairs with your democracy assistance, annual human rights reports, and general whinging. We are sovereign nations. (Aside: The president’s speech had a throwback element, focusing on rogue states or an updated axis of evil rather than geopolitical foes. In national security terms, is the Trump administration ultimately more concerned about Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela – not to mention Cuba and Syria – or China and Russia?)

How is the Trump administration going to achieve all these political and security objectives? Alone? For an administration that has weakened the Department of State and criticized US allies as much or more than US rivals, the answer seems pretty clear.

And yet even a proponent of the speech like Marc Thiessen falls back on the need for cooperation to achieve US security ends. For example, Trump’s “tough rhetoric was aimed not just at Pyongyang but also at China and other states whose cooperation in squeezing the regime is necessary for a peaceful solution.” Or this passage, also from Thiessen’s op-ed: “What has inspired and enabled the spread of peace, democracy and individual liberty was the principled projection of power by the world’s democratic countries, led by the United States.” Cooperation with China might lead to an improvement with North Korea. Cooperation with other democratic countries helped spread peace and democracy.

If Trump wasn’t really defending sovereignty – everybody stay in your sovereign box and do what you want inside your box – and he wasn’t pushing international cooperation, multilateralism, and international institutions to advocate for democracy and US values, what was his implicit approach? Might makes right. The argument that the United States enjoys sovereign protection but its enemies do not is not an argument about legal rights but rather about power. Do what we say or we, the United States, will “totally destroy” you.

This focus on US power reflects Trump’s foreign policy struggle. Sometimes America First means take care of needs at home and stop getting embroiled all over the world in other people’s messes; it has a mildly isolationist flavor. At other times, America First means the United States is the pre-eminent global power and should use its armed forces to demonstrate to everyone that that is the case, as some previous presidents have been perfectly willing to do.

Either way, what was decidedly absent from Trump’s words was the long, bipartisan US support for a US-led liberal international economic order. SPOILER ALERT: Even for a president who zigs and zags as much as President Trump, support for that order is not forthcoming.

August 17, 2017

Some Basics on Charlottesville, August 12

I wanted to share some preliminary thoughts after reading some of the initial media and eyewitness reports from the demonstrations and attack in Charlottesville. I was not there but I wanted to delve into the ‘sides’ that everyone keeps talking about and set down some basics:

  1. The far right included white supremacists and one or more militias. The white supremacists included Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Workers’ Party (KKK), the National Socialist Movement, and American Vanguard. (For more general information, the Southern Poverty Law Center maintains a national list of active hate groups.) One right-wing militia that appeared in reports was the Three Percenters.
  2. Both these components of the far right were heavily armed, including long rifles that concerned the Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, Brian Moran.
  3. The white supremacists’ public aim was inequality on the basis of race and religion.
  4. The far right was almost exclusively white and largely (almost exclusively?) male.
  5. Some portion of the counter-protestors came from outside Charlottesville.
  6. The counter-protestors public aim was to reject inequality on the basis of race and religion. Or, if you prefer, the counter-protestors public aim was equality.
  7. Unarmed clergy came to oppose the rally. They did so in a non-violent fashion.
  8. It is hard to tell whether terms like antifa (anti-Fascists), Black Lives Matters, and Communists are being used in reports to refer accurately to people from actual organizations or as blanket ways of categorizing leftist demonstrators (as in the way the word ‘liberals’ if often used).
  9. There were counter-protestors who came ready to fight, often identified as part of the antifa movement. They seem to have had (many) fewer guns. One exception I came across: Members of Redneck Revolt “were armed with shotguns, assault rifles, and pistols.”
  10. There were counter-protestors who came completely unarmed and pursuing solely non-violent protest.
  11. Based on the mostly text reports I have read, I have not been able to get at the proportion in each counter-protest category (#9 and #10).
  12. The counter-protestors included people of various races and genders. This was a point of pride.
  13. The VICE video strongly supports the notion that the car attack that killed Heather Heyer and injured 19 others was an intentional attack. It took place in the midst of a protest march composed of two groups of counter-protestors who had come together as one march. The car does not at all appear to enter or be caught up in an area of fighting between ‘sides.’
  14. There were fights and the throwing of projectiles, mostly likely between the white supremacists and some of the counter-protestors, for several hours on Saturday. The use of pepper spray was common. Buzzfeed also reported fights between the far right and police, but I did not find a lot of detail on that claim.
  15. The question of whether the police – VA State Police, Charlottesville Police, perhaps others – performed well remains to be evaluated. There have been questions.

I should stress this is preliminary. I imagine more details and fuller accounts will emerge that may or may not re-shape my understanding of the basics.

March 13, 2017

Early Trump Foreign Policy: A Quick Analysis

What does early Trump foreign policy look like?

The anti-globalism piece is prominent. The Republican administration withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a move seen as a major symbol of its stated rejection of free trade. Interactions with Mexico have been rocky, but we lack clarity on possible changes in trade relations (NAFTA!) or on border wall construction.

In addition, President Trump issued two executive orders blocking immigration from seven six countries – the Muslim Ban – and halting the admission of refugees to the United States. The racial and religious prejudice underlying the moves on immigration are apparent in Trump’s bigoted rhetoric before and after assuming office, including his own talk of imposing a Muslim Ban; the list of targeted countries which have no connection to improving national security according to the Department of Homeland Security but do have largely Muslim populations; the presence of Steve Bannon, creator of a media platform for white supremacists, as a close presidential advisor; the explicit bigotry of a Trump ally, Rep. Steve King (Iowa); and the reckless behavior of ICE and CBP under Trump.

One Republican member of Congress called out Rep. King’s white supremacist rhetoric:

A traveler at the Houston airport tweeted:

Zand works for BBC and was headed to SXSW. The whole thread of his trip for the UK to Texas is quite a read. (Or, for another example, read about Muhammad Ali Jr’s experiences. Or ICE raids.)

Pulling back from the world may also explain the many empty offices in important US departments that interact with the world, whether on economic (Commerce, Treasury) or diplomatic (State) matters. (Granted, it may also be a lack or preparedness for a well-functioning transition.) At almost every Federal Department, most levels just below the Secretary remain unfilled with no nominee:


Meanwhile, the expectation of major budget cuts including at Commerce and State, as well as to foreign aid, will further curtail the US international presence. Far from being a force for fossil fuels, as some critics expected, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appears largely absent from the policy process. Only a few officials dealing with international and national security issues received much outside praise, e.g. Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. Overall, the administration’s comfort with isolationism and isolationism’s nativist (racist) past is front and center.

That said, at least two counterpoints to isolationism stand out.

1) The president is quite enamored with US military strength. In addition to talk of increasing the US military budget by $54 billion, the possibility of (much) deeper US military intervention in Syria and Iraq seems real. We’ve already seen more US Marines in Syria. Or, elsewhere in the Middle East, more drone strikes in Yemen. And we have not heard much yet about Afghanistan.

2) He is also talking about finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At a February 15 press availability with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump seemed interested in finding a deal. More recently, President Trump spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the administration retained two diplomats who had worked on Israel-Palestine issues under President Barack Obama.

Beyond rhetoric, we don’t know much yet about how the administration will handle Russia (given the many ties during the campaign) and related issues like Ukraine; the European Union; and China (after Trump’s botched phone call as President-Elect). These are very important issues of international order and great power politics. Could the Republican Party under Trump seek to be the international leader of a nativist, nationalist ideological movement and repeatedly tangle with proponents of globalism, liberalism, and neo-liberalism? Quite possibly.

North Korea remains a wildcard. When the first international crisis hits, with Pyongyang or some other rival, how will the Trump administration react? Stay tuned.

What would you add to the list?

December 28, 2016

Two States: Kerry’s Six Points

If you want a 2-state solution, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s six points (or here) sum much of it up.

1. “1967 lines with mutually agreed equivalent [land] swaps.”

2. “two states for two peoples, one Jewish & one Arab, with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all their respective citizens.”

3. Palestinian refugees “international assistance, that includes compensation, options…acknowledgment of suffering.” But the Palestinian refugee “solution must be consistent with 2 states for 2 peoples, & cannot affect the fundamental character of Israel.” In short: no return (or possibly VERY limited return) of Palestinians to pre-1967 Israel.

4. Jerusalem will serve as “the internationally recognized capital of the two states.” All religions will have freedom of access to the holy sites. Thought the city will serve as two capitals, the city will not be physically divided.

5. “Satisfy Israel’s security needs and bring a full end to the occupation.” Palestine as a “non-militarized state.”

6. “End conflict & all outstanding claims, enabling normalized relations and enhanced regional security for all.” Implement the Arab Peace Initiative and embed Israeli-Palestinian peace in a wider regional resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

But maybe you prefer something other than two states?

December 23, 2016

Trump’s Nuclear New Look?

Yesterday, President-elect Trump made a splash with this tweet  on nuclear weapons:

On the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces.” A new, nuclear arms race? Putin says no. [UPDATE: Trump told MSNBC yes: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”]

It has since come out that in 1987, Trump told an interviewer that the United States and the Soviet Union should work together to prevent other countries from developing nuclear weapons. He said both sides could use “economic retaliation” to stop countries from going nuclear, cutting off US (or Soviet) aid to the point that people were rioting in the streets. In short,

But I also want to suggest another possibility. Trump has also been attacking major conventional weapons systems:

What would you get if you continually downgrade conventional arms and focus more on nuclear weapons? Maybe in a crisis situation you end up relying more on nuclear weapons.

And that reminded me of President Eisenhower (1953-1961) and the early Cold War. Eisenhower’s “New Look” placed greater reliance on nuclear weapons. He wanted nuclear weapons to be more of a regular part of the arsenal, as illustrated by his answer at a March 16, 1955 press conference:

screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-7-16-16-amPerhaps the most memorable line of the answer: “I see no reason why they shouldn’t be used just exactly as you would use a bullet or anything else.”

Of course, this conceals a vast difference between the two leaders. Eisenhower was a general with extensive military experience while Trump has no military experience. That difference makes me even more concerned about increasing US stockpiles of and reliance upon nuclear weapons under the Trump administration.

I could be way off here about Trump but so much seems uncertain about Trump’s policy direction these days that it seemed worth thinking outside the box.

November 16, 2016

What about Israel and Saudi Arabia?

This story made me curious about what exactly is going on between Israel and Saudi Arabia. In 2015, the Economist called them “the new Frenemies.” What can we tell from the google?

Better (friendlier) Saudi media coverage of Israel, according to jpost: “Saudi state-run media appears to be softening its reporting on Israel, running unprecedented columns floating the prospect of direct relations, quoting Israeli officials and filling its newsholes with fewer negative stories on Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.” (or here, here, here) Or, Saudi Arabia “remained notably quiet during Israel’s bombing campaign against the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip” in 2014. In 2014, “former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal published an op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.”

Meetings between Saudi and Israeli officials:  Anwar Eshki, a retired Saudi major general, and Dore Gold, a former senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official. They began secret contacts in 2014 and went public in 2015. Eshki visited Israel and met with Gold at a hotel, not the Foreign Ministry. (The Saudi government denied Eshki was an official emissary.) On May 5, 2016, “former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki bin Faisal and retired Israeli Major General Yaakov Amidror spoke together at a Washington event hosted by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.”

Diplomatic formalities. After Egypt gave (returned) two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in April 2016, the “Israeli Defense Ministry confirmed that Riyadh had given Israeli policymakers written assurances of the continued safety of the Straits of Tiran.” (and here)

They have economic ties: “Saudi Arabia has developed clandestine business deals with Israeli companies in recent years, even though Riyadh officially maintains a stringent boycott on Israeli goods. To circumvent the trade boycott, Israeli goods have been shipped to Saudi Arabia under the purview of foreign companies. This circumvention has allowed Israeli IT products and irrigation technology to enter Saudi markets.” And seltzer.

And military arms or cooperation?

  1. Rumors that Israel offered Saudi Arabia the Iron Dome missile system have been denied.The alleged idea was to help Saudi defend itself against rockets from Yemen.
  2. In 2013, Britain’s Sunday Times reported cooperation on a possible military attack on Iran (in Ha’aretz’s words): “According to the diplomatic source quoted by the Times, Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israel use its air space, and assist an Israeli attack by cooperating on the use of drones, rescue helicopters and tanker planes.”
  3. In 2016, Amos Yadlin, head of military intelligence 2006-2010, suggested cooperation “is done below the screen.” Reports of “an uptick in backdoor dealings.” Intelligence cooperation regarding Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah seems likely.

Aside: in Nov, 2015, Israel opened a diplomatic mission in the United Arab Emirates.

Do you have more useful links on Israel and Saudi Arabia? Let us know.