Yet more confirmation emerged today regarding the recently established relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which is being defined by a shared desire to see Iranian influence and expansion rolled back in the Middle East. For the first time a high level Israeli government official has formally acknowledged the increased ties between the two countries which have historically been bitter enemies, and which have never had official diplomatic relations.
The historic news, which is worrisome for the fact that it could bring the region closer to major war as the newfound "allies" eye the Iranian proxy Hezbollah, follows the leak of an Israeli diplomatic cable sent to all Israeli embassies throughout the world which revealed Israeli and Saudi behind the scenes coordination. The cable gave instructions to Israeli diplomats to express support for the Saudi war against Shia forces in Yemen and also urged embassies to aggressively lobby their host governments to take steps toward pushing Hezbollah out of Lebanon.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday that Israel has had covert contacts with Saudi Arabia amid common concerns over Iran, a first disclosure by a senior Israeli official of such contacts. In an interview on Army Radio, Steinitz was asked why Israel was hiding its ties with Saudi Arabia, which does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.
And in response Steinitz replied in the affirmative, explaining that:
"We have ties that are indeed partly covert with many Muslim and Arab countries, and usually (we are) the party that is not ashamed. It’s the other side that is interested in keeping the ties quiet. With us, usually, there is no problem, but we respect the other side’s wish, when ties are developing, whether it’s with Saudi Arabia or with other Arab countries or other Muslim countries, and there is much more ... (but) we keep it secret.”
The official confirmation follows closely on the heels of an unprecedented interview that Israel Defense Force (IDF) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot gave to a prominent Saudi newspaper last Thursday in which he said that, "Israel is ready to share intelligence with Riyadh on their shared arch-foe Iran." Eizenkot explained further, according to Tel Aviv based i24NEWS, that "Israel and Riyadh - which he noted have never fought one another - are in complete agreement about Iran's intentions to dominate the Middle East."
In early September we broke the story that no less than Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) may have been among a Saudi delegation which secretly visited Israel at the time. This was based on an Israeli state funded radio broadcast (Kol Yisrael), which made cryptic reference to the "secret" visit while withholding names and specifics. "An emir of the Saudi royal court visited the country secretly in recent days and discussed with senior Israeli officials the idea of advancing regional peace," the station reported.
As knowledge of the Saudi-Israeli ties are becoming public knowledge, this could certainly result in embarrassment for both countries, especially on the Saudi domestic front. As the Israeli Energy Minister said today, "It’s the other side that is interested in keeping the ties quiet."
Could news of official ties with the Jewish state be recipe for more internal unrest to come in Saudi Arabia? No doubt, the kingdom's radical Wahhabi religious establishment will have much to say on the issue. This is perhaps why MBS has reportedly continued his unrelenting and broadening crackdown.