Saudi Arabia’s links with Israel will remain under-the-radar unless a peace deal is achieved between Israel and the Palestinians, according to a UK-Israel think-tank.
In a report by BICOM, published this week, analysts say the Saudis could support the Palestinian leadership and offer an incentive to the Israelis to forge an agreement, but that this issue is not a top Saudi priority.
The kingdom, now effectively led by 33-year old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS, has by far the world’s biggest supplies of oil, and has recently launched a series of liberalising reforms, as it seeks to move away from fossil fuels and assert itself in the region.
The BICOM report says that Saudi royals “share an interest” in Jerusalem and in an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, and want to marginalise Islamist groups like Hamas and Iranian proxies like Hezbollah, in order “to maintain legitimacy among their own public and across the Islamic world”.
But the authors also acknowledge that Saudi Arabia’s recent and unsuccessful military involvement in Yemen and Syria, together with its need to reform and its ongoing proxy war with Iran, means that an Israeli-Palestinian deal is not high on Riyadh’s to-do list.
“The Israeli-Palestinian arena, with highs risks and low chances of reward, is not a Saudi priority,” say the authors of the report titled ‘Transform or Bust: Implications of the Saudi Revolution.’
They say common Israeli-Saudi interests such as an antipathy toward Iran overlap “only to a point,” adding that “without progress on the Palestinian issue Saudi-Israeli cooperation will remain covert and limited”.
Listen to the Jewish Views Podcast: