Thursday, October 24, 2013

Israel and Gulf States Drawing Closer?


Recent remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have fueled renewed speculation of behind-the-scenes links between Israel and the Gulf monarchies. 
Netanyahu, speaking at the UN, said that “the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the emergence of other threats in our region have led many of our Arab neighbors to recognize, finally recognize, that Israel is not their enemy.” 
He added: “This affords us the opportunity to overcome the historic animosities and build new relationships, new friendships, new hopes.” 
There have been subsequent rumors of visits by senior Gulf officials to Israel, to discuss matters of common interest. 
While it is difficult to acquire details of these contacts at the present time, it is a near certainty that they exist, on one level or another. Conversations with Israeli officials suggest that much is happening behind the scenes. 
Israel and the key states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (most importantly, Saudi Arabia) share core views on the nature of key regional processes currently underway, and their desired outcome.  These commonalities have existed for some time, and it is likely that the contacts are themselves not all that new. 
There are three areas in which Israel and the countries of the GCC (with the exception of Qatar) are on the same page. 
They are: the urgency of the threat represented by the prospect of a nuclear Iran, the danger represented by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood over the last two years, and the perception that the United States fails to understand the urgency of these threats and, as a result, is acting in a naive and erroneous way on both.
What the Administration doesn't realize (or care about) is that Israel and Saudi Arabia both view a nuclear armed Iran as an existential threat. Consequently, if there is nothing done about Iran, and it develops nuclear weapons, there will be a great sense of urgency--perhaps even panic--on the part of Israel and/or the Gulf States.

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