|With Saudi Arabia's recent, dramatic diplomatic moves, an unlikely alliance appears to be emerging|
Quietly, Israel and the Gulf States Draw Closer -Jonathan Spyer
Recent remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have fueled renewed speculation of behind-the-scenes links between Israel and the Gulf monarchies.
Netanyahu, speaking at the UN, said that "the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the emergence of other threats in our region have led many of our Arab neighbors to recognize, finally recognize, that Israel is not their enemy."
He added: "This affords us the opportunity to overcome the historic animosities and build new relationships, new friendships, new hopes." There have been subsequent rumors of visits by senior Gulf officials to Israel, to discuss matters of common interest.
While it is difficult to acquire details of these contacts at the present time, it is a near certainty that they exist, on one level or another. Conversations with Israeli officials suggest that much is happening behind the scenes.
Israel and the key states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (most importantly, Saudi Arabia) share core views on the nature of key regional processes currently underway, and their desired outcome. These commonalities have existed for some time, and it is likely that the contacts are themselves not all that new.
There are three areas in which Israel and the countries are on the same page.
They are: the urgency of the threat represented by the prospect of a nuclear Iran, the danger represented by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood over the last two years, and the perception that the United States fails to understand the urgency of these threats and, as a result, is acting in a naive and erroneous way on both.
On the U.S.: the Saudis think that the current U.S. administration is hopelessly naive on the Middle East. They were shocked at the abandonment of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in 2011. They are equally vexed at the current indications of American and Western willingness to lift some sanctions against Iran in return for cosmetic concessions that would leave the core of Teheran's nuclear program intact.
The absence of American leadership may well be the key factor in causing Israel and the Gulf states to draw closer.
On the face of it, any alliance between Jewish Israel and Salafi Saudi Arabia might appear an absurdity.
[I]t is worth remembering the Wikileaks revelation of remarks made in private by Saudi King Abdullah to American General David Petraeus in April, 2008, in which he recommended military action against the Iranian nuclear program. The king referred to Iran as the "head of the snake," which should be cut off. No similarly venomous remarks on Israel were quoted from the conversation, which took place far from the public eye.
The de facto, unseen alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries is one of the most intriguing structures currently emerging amid the whirling chaos of the Middle East.
[Middle East Forum]