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.


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