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Paul McLoughlin

Saudi Arabia and Israel come together

Former Saudi minister Madani visited Jerusalem in January [AFP]

Date of publication: 6 June, 2015

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Analysis: Saudi Arabia and Israel appear to have put enmity aside or at least on hold, and are coming together to confront a common regional foe- Iran, says Paul Mcloughlin.

Saudi Arabia has taken the famous Arabic proverb - "my enemy's enemy is my friend" - to heart as a former Saudi general revealed that Riyadh held secret talks with its arch-enemy, Israel.

Five secret meetings were said to have taken place between Riyadh and Tel Aviv officials on how to deal with a common foe - Iran.

Secret dealings

The meetings were revealed by Anwar bin Mejed Eshki, a retired general and a former adviser to Prince Bandar al-Saud, during a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

Saudi Arabia does not officially recognise Israel, but there have been consistent rumours about secret dealings between the two countries.

Eshki said that talks began in 2014 and highlight's Riyadh aversion to a strong, expansionist and internationally accepted Iran.

The Cold War between the two Middle East superpowers has led to a number of proxy wars being fought out in the region.

Saudi Arabia is involved in a military campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen who are believed to be backed by Iran.

Tehran has also aided the Syrian regime during its brutal military campaign against Saudi-backed rebels.

     A poll revealed that the Saudi public viewed Iran as a bigger threat than the Islamic State group or Israel.


However, Iran's active role against the Islamic State group in Iraq has been applauded by the US. This sense of reapproachment with Washington is worrying Riyadh.

Saudis appear to agree with their government on the matter. A poll conducted by an Israeli university revealed that the Saudi public viewed Iran as a bigger threat than the Islamic State group, Israel or the US.

It might be a surprise that a country is proud of its Islamic credentials could sit at the same table as the occupiers of Palestinian land and Islamic holy sites.

Fear of Iran

However, with the current level of Iranophobia in Saudi Arabia and Israel it shouldn't.

Europe and the US have welcomed Iran in from the cold, and Tehran is tying up a nuclear deal with key international parties.

Both Saudi Arabia and Israel suspect that its civilian nuclear programme is a cover for a military one.

Saudi officials have stated that it will obtain nukes if Iran does first. Israel, of course, has its own.

One option Saudi Arabia has been considering is to purchase part of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

Yesterday, this plan took a knock when Pakistan's foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry ruled out sharing its nukes with Riyadh.

But the fact that such a senior figure such as Eshki could speak of relations with Israel hints, to some degree, of a tacit level of government approval about his comments.

This is particularly true after Saudi Arabia's former hajj minister, Iyad Madani, to occupied Jerusalem in January.

Madani who now heads the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation said he was there to defy the Israeli occupation and visit Palestine's religious sites. 

But as 'custodian of the holy sites', many Arabs and Muslims hold Saudi Arabia to a higher moral account than other nations, and this means no dealing with the ultimate enemy, Israel.

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