The election of the new Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, 31-year-old son of King Salman ibn Abdul-Aziz al-Saud, was called "the embodiment of Israel's dream" in the United States. One such leading American expert in the Middle East, the former US Ambassador to Israel (2011-2017) and the adviser of the previous owner of the White House for Middle East Affairs (2008-2011), Daniel Shapiro, recently made such a spectacular assessment.
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman
The Israeli dream of finding a consistent partner in the face of the largest Arab monarchy is gradually becoming a reality. At the present historical turn, the interests of Middle Eastern democracy and the Arabian kingdom began to converge at one point. They are also brought together by a sense of the threats emanating from one regional power, to which the Israeli authorities and the al-Saud family are experiencing almost identical hostility.
The nomination of Prince Muhammad became desirable for the Israelis, primarily, with an eye to consolidating the situation of geopolitical confrontation with Iran. The ambitious heir to the throne, the future king, who in fact already functions as a monarch, became just a find for Israel and the US administration. In Washington, there is now a rare unanimity between the Democrats and the Republicans that the brewing union of Israel and Saudi Arabia should be supported in every possible way. Assessments of diplomat Shapiro, appointed to the post of head of the US diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv under the administrationBarack Obama, Emphasizes this trend.
Meanwhile, among Washington diplomats and analysts, there is a firm conviction that on one hostility to Iran, a strong Israeli-Saudi alliance, with the possible inclusion of several more Sunni countries in the region, will not be built. The foundation of such an anti-Iranian alliance could be the historic agreement between Tel Aviv and Riyadh, which the US presidentDonald TrumpIn the inherent manner he likes to call it "a big bargain." The "pain syndrome" between the Jewish state and the Arab world is conditioned by the Palestinian problem. Its decision, albeit with an interim character, is intended to become the very foundation for the alliance of Israel and Saudi Arabia to emerge from the shadow.
What, in this regard, does Trump propose his "big deal"? In fact, nothing new, just a few adjustments to the so-called Arab Peace Initiative 2002, which is expected to adapt to the Middle Eastern realities, taking into account the changes over the past 15 years (1).
In Washington, the young heir to the Saudi throne is called the ardent supporter of lifting the taboo from the relations of the Arab world and Israel precisely on the basis of the Arab initiative 2002. Its framework is supposed to be somewhat expanded and at the same time made more flexible, aligned with the current dynamics of processes in the region. The Arabs of the Persian Gulf have, in fact, very limited tools to attract the attention of the Israelis to their initiative. This is still said in half a voice, but the "big deal" of Trump, which is inclined in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, can become both breakthrough and realized when one important element for Israel is included in it. This is recognition of the sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which the Israeli army established after the "six-day war" won by 50 years ago. Golan Heights on the Arab initiative 2002 should be returned to Syria. But there is no Syria as such. SyriaBashar al-AssadEven in 2011 year expelled from the League of Arab States, with it, no Arab monarchy of the Gulf will not go to normalize relations. Assad "ceded" the Arab Republic to the Iranians, then why should we save the tiny territory of the Golan (about 1200 sq. Km.) Under ephemeral Syrian sovereignty, something like this is now being discussed in Riyadh and other Arab capitals.
The Golan, along with other wishes of Israel (in particular, the creation of the Confederate State of Palestine under the guarantees of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the transfer of the question of Jerusalem to the most recent stage in the solution of the Palestinian-Eritrean conflict) appear to the Saudis increasingly rational. The Israeli army in the Golan Heights is today one of the best solutions to the task of destroying the continuous "Shiite axis" from the western borders of Iran to the Lebanese coast of the Mediterranean Sea (Iran-Iraq Syria-Lebanon).
The most recent agreements on the creation of a de-escalation zone in south-western Syria are also suitable for this purpose. Israel calls it a "buffer", and made great efforts to create such a "layer" of the security zone on the approaches to its eastern borders on the territories of the Syrian provinces of Kuneitra, Suweid and Deraa. Approximately for 24 hours before the arrival of 7 July, reports on the achieved by Russia and the USA with Jordan's participation in the agreement on the southern zone of de-escalation in Western publications "presented" the idea of a buffer between Israel and Syria (2).
Clearly, the "freezing" of the situation in southern Syria is in the interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia more than indirectly present to the Syrian southwest (through allied groups) to Iran. Tehran may not be delighted with the Russian-American agreement, at least because of its "separate" nature, without involving Iranians in the development of agreements.
The points of convergence of the positions of Israel and Saudi Arabia go beyond the Arab initiative and the Palestinian question as a whole. The geography of such a mutual attraction of the two powerful forces of the region is impressive. In Lebanon, they have one common enemy - the Shiite movement Hezbollah, which enjoys the full support of Iran. With the support of the "Party of Allah", the Iranians project their own influence on the entire line of contact between Israel and Lebanon and Syria. The Damascus-Beirut track, under the joint control of the Iranian "military advisers", the fighters of Hezbollah and the Syrian army, became an irritant both for the Israelis and for the Saudis.
The latter in Syria, in fact, had only one pivot point in the face of the group "Jays al-Islam" ("Army of Islam"), based in the suburbs of the Syrian capital East Guta. For her, Riyadh holds with all his might and Tel-Aviv puts his own shoulder on it. The attacks of the Israeli army deep into the Syrian territory, which since the beginning of the summer have increased and taken on a more dense fire character, are not least aimed at weakening the opponents of the "Army of Islam" surrounding the enclave of East Gut on all sides. Israeli foreign and military intelligence have established a hidden channel for exchanging information with colleagues from the Saudi General Intelligence Service on issues related to the activities of Hezbollah and directly Iranian "advisors" in Syria.
In Iraq, Israel and Saudi Arabia have the same common target and shared attitude to prevent the growth of Iranian influence. The leadership of the Shiite militia of Iraq "Hasd al-Shaabi" is under the close attention of the special services of the two countries. Any activity of the pro-Iranian groups in Iraq is tracked, and the resources of the US weight-sharing community are also connected.
To exclude the Shia majority government's entry into Baghdad under Tehran's determining influence, the "Middle Eastern triumvirate" in the person of the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia uses the factor of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurds in the north of Iraq issue of separation from the "metropolis" each time is directly dependent on the intelligence services of the three countries mentioned information about the rapprochement between Baghdad and Tehran. The threat of the Kurdish referendum and the persistence of painful points on the body of Iraq in the fight against the terrorist ISP (Islamic State, IG, IGIL) are the levers used by the "triumvirators" to pressure the central Iraqi government.
In Yemen, where the Saudi coalition conducts an extremely vague military campaign against local Shiite Husit insurgents, the Israelis are also ready to offer their potential ally their services. Deterrence of Iranians from penetrating into the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula from the sea became one of the priority goals of the Kingdom. And in order to close access to the Yemeni rebels for the Iranian navy, the Saudis can not do without coordination with Israel and the United States. The concession by Egypt to Saudi Arabia of the two islands in the Red Sea, with the backstage role of the US and Israel in this deal, completely fits the logic of blocking the activity of the Iranian Navy on the outskirts of Yemen.
It should be pointed out here that the Saudis are studying one of the important points of legitimizing the future alliance with Israel. Lobbyists of rapprochement with the Jewish state in the Kingdom began to point to the actual extension of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt 1979 to the kind of "multilateral agreement". For example, according to the former general of the Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia, the former adviser to the head of the Royal Intelligence ServiceAnvara Eshki(Now the director of the Middle East Center for Strategic Studies based in Saudi Arabia, Jeddah), the transfer of sovereignty over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir by the Egyptian side leads to de facto recognition of the Riyadh Camp David Agreements 1978. Thus, an international right foundation is created for the withdrawal of Israeli-Saudi relations, with the support of Egypt and the United States from the regional "underground".
If Saudi Arabia recognizes Camp David, this is the first step towards officially recognizing the right of the Jewish state to exist. What is important to emphasize, the Kingdom does this step before any serious progress in the process of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement. Although the letter and spirit of the Arab initiative are based precisely on the fact that until Israel returns to the borders of 1967, its recognition by the authors of the Initiative is impossible.
In July 2016, a delegation from Saudi Arabia headed by Anwar Eshki visited Israel. This did not become a special sensation, given the series of pre-existing contacts between the two countries on various issues of the Middle East agenda. But the emissaries of Saudi Arabia, albeit at an unofficial level of experts and businessmen, for the first time in public mode, came to Israel to exchange views. The delegation included representatives of academic and business circles of Saudi Arabia. During the visit, the delegation met in Jerusalem with the Director General of the Israeli Foreign MinistryDori Goldom, Coordinator of operations of the IDF in Judea and Samaria (West Bank of Jordan), Major-GeneralYoav Mordechai, As well as with a group of opposition Knesset members. The stated goal of the visit was the promotion of the Arab Peace Initiative in the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Let's notice, Dori Gold met with Anwar Eshki in the summer of 2015 year in the USA, at any time by the time when the conclusion of the agreement of world powers with Iran on its nuclear program reached the home stretch. This and many other things suggest that the Palestinian theme is important for Tel Aviv and Riyadh for finding points of rapprochement. But Iran is much more relevant for the two Middle Eastern capitals, who have their own special accounts with him.
In recent years, Israel has not made any hostile move directly against Saudi Arabia. She answered him in kind. This alone is sufficient to prepare the soil in which the seeds of the anti-Iranian sentiment of the two regional powers can give their "geopolitical shoots" in the near future.
However, the prospects for the formation of the Israeli-Saudi alliance are not as obvious as it might seem at a superficial glance. The same American connoisseur of the Middle East, Daniel Shapiro, warns the current US administration about the fraughtness of inflated expectations from the new heir to the Saudi throne. The young prince is too impulsive and at the same time inexperienced. This is compounded by the factor of his enormous ambitions to dictate the conditions of Riyadh to the entire Arab world, which has already created a number of problems for Americans in the crisis that erupted in early summer around Qatar. Shapiro and other proponents of the pragmatic Middle East policy in Washington suggest the Trump administration to make Mohammed bin Salman "a strong warning" so that his "steps in the future will not compromise the interests of America."
The Union of Israel and Saudi Arabia already exists approximately from the time when six world powers in July 2015 year concluded a nuclear deal with Iran. The Israelis could not "step back" the then administration of the White House, but they quickly found a partner in the matter of frontal deterrence of Iran. Over the past two years, especially taking into account the changes in the power corridors of Washington, Israel has approached the cherished goal of creating a largely situational but alliance of interests with major Arab countries.
The division of labor within the framework of the anti-Iranian union of Israel and the Sunni Arab states of the Middle East is quite clear. Arabians are interested in using the power potential of Egypt and Israel on the track of confrontation with Iran. The Egyptians are one of the strongest armed forces in the region, they have a relatively powerful above-water fleet, which in case of an urgent need to put a shield against Iranian warships in the water area of the Red Sea. The Israelis have not only a highly mobile army with crushing firepower, recently supplemented (in December 2016) with the introduction of F-35 multipurpose fighters. Only the Israeli Navy's submarine fleet is able to solve such tasks to contain Iran, which for decades are far ahead of all Arab countries of the region combined. In the arsenal of the Jewish state, the best special services in the Middle East, one of the most extensive networks of information gathering, including with reliance on intelligence intelligence.
With the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, Israel's positions in the administration and the US Congress have undergone significant strengthening. This is of great interest to the Arab monarchies, which has already issued a concrete result in the form of the first foreign tour of the 45 American president who visited in May only two countries in the region - Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Israel and the leading players in the Arab world are seeing more and more common enemies and the field of previous fundamental differences is steadily narrowing. The general hostility to Iran, the Syrian regime, Lebanese Hezbollah, the Iraqi militia "Hasd al-Shaabi", the Yemeni Shiite rebels, the Islamist organization "Muslim Brotherhood" outweighs the continued divergence of positions on the Palestinian question. Both of them are open to intensive dialogue and coordination of actions, as a result of which a completely new alliance may appear on the reformatted map of the Middle East.
(1) Arab peace initiative was proposed by the previous King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah ibn Abdul-Aziz al-Saud in 2002. It provides for the withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Palestinian territories and return to the borders of 1967. Under the initiative, Israel recognizes a sovereign Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. In addition, the initiative stipulates a fair solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees. If all these conditions are met, the Arab states will consider the conflict with Israel exhausted and establish relations with it within the framework of a comprehensive peace.
(2) Israel "pushes" Russia and the United States to create a "buffer zone" in southern Syria that would guarantee the security of the eastern borders of the Jewish state. The Israelis are seeking assurances that the militants of the Lebanese Hezbollah and other groups supported by Iran will not be allowed to conduct military operations in this zone. About this, referring to its Middle Eastern sources 6 July reported British The Times. According to the publication, representatives of Israel were present "on the sidelines" of the earlier meetings in the Jordanian Amman between the United States and Russia, at which the issue of "the future of southern Syria" was discussed. The British newspaper became aware of the approximate shape of the "buffer". It will stretch for more than 50 km to the east of the Golan Heights on the Israeli-Syrian border to the city of Deraa (the administrative center of the same-named Syrian province). The "buffer zone" will further extend to the outskirts of Suwayda city, which is under the control of government troops.