Week of December 7, 2020 | Issue 13
Potential Ties Between Israel and Saudi Arabia
Date: November 22, 2020
Location: Saudi Arabia
Parties involved: Israel; Saudi Arabia; United States
The event: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia to meet the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Along with them was the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. This was the first meeting between Israeli and Saudi leadership. While the meeting was originally kept secret with no comments from any side, it was soon brought out by a leak that the face-to-face did happen. The meeting hopes to bring about ties between the two countries and help stabilize the region.
This event can be a big win for Israel. The fact that they were able to even meet is a large step in the right direction due to past differences. However, due to the leak about the meeting, there could be repercussions on Saudi Arabia’s leadership from its pro-Palestinian population.
Further reasons for the meeting may be due to the fact that Saudi Arabia and Israel are looking to decrease their reliance on United States cooperation by diversifying their international relationships. This is because of the fear that the incoming administration of United States President-elect Joe Biden will adopt a moderate approach to Iran.
While full normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel remains unlikely in the near future because of ongoing conflicts, defense and intelligence cooperation may continue to advance through this meeting. Since the Saudi Crown Prince also serves as the Kingdom's defense minister and there are reports that Mossad head Yossi Cohen was reportedly also in attendance, it seems likely that intelligence and defense cooperation between the two countries is likely to counter Iran.
Saudi Arabia remains open to fully normalise ties with Israel on the condition of Palestinian statehood, according to a statement by Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Saturday, December 5, 2020.
The most recent developments on the Israel and Saudi Arabia meeting occurred on Sunday, December 6, at the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Manama Dialogue in Bahrain’s capital. The developments included Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal, the Kingdom’s former intelligence chief and ambassador to The United States and the United Kingdom, along with Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani played host. However, the Prince made strong accusations against Israel about being the last “Western colonizer” in the Middle East.
However, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said his country remains open to fully normalizing ties with Israel and joining the Abraham Accords, a normalization agreement between Israel, the United Arab Emirate, and the United States. Furthermore, it is critically important to get Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table that will deliver a Palestinian state.
While there is still much to be done to normalize ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, there does seem to be steps being taken in the right direction to make that happen. This may be especially important with a new President coming into office in January 2021 in the United States. Furthermore, there has yet to be backlash from surrounding countries on Saudi Arabia for meeting with Israel. It is likely something will develop and have an impact on the potential for ties between the two countries.