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Saudi Commentator Praises Israel; Latest Sign of Warming Ties Between Jewish and Arab States

Israel and Saudi Arabia should form a “collaborative alliance” to become the “twin pillars of regional stability” in the Middle East, a top Saudi lobbyist wrote in The Hill on Tuesday, in what is the latest sign of warming and increasingly-public ties between Arab countries and the Jewish state.

Salman al-Ansari, the founder and president of the Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee, asserted that Israel can assist Saudi Arabia in implementing its Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s blueprint to diversify its economy. Al-Ansari specifically mentioned Israel’s expertise in mining and water technology, which makes Israel “extraordinarily qualified to help Saudi Arabia with its ambitious desalination plans.”

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man in charge of implementing Vision 2030, “is prepared and willing to develop real, enduring ties with Israel,” al-Ansari wrote, adding, “Any form of normalization between the two countries is also an Arabic and Muslim normalization towards Israel, which will undoubtedly promote security and weaken extremism in the region.”

Major Arab powers have been increasingly visible in their willingness to publicly engage with Israel in the past year. David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy branded this Saudi pivot as “the new normal,” saying that while pragmatic, behind-the-scenes dialogue between Israel and Arab countries is “nothing new,” even hinting at cooperation publicly marks an undeniable turning point.

Change in Israeli-Saudi relations has been slow but persistent. Anwar Eshki, a former general who has served in senior positions in the Saudi military and foreign ministry, visited Israel in July as part of a delegation of Saudi academics and businessmen. Then-Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold gave an interview last year with a Saudi website, and Israel’s ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer was likewise recently interviewed by the Saudi media. Gold and Eshki brought the Israeli-Saudi relationship to the forefront when they publicly shook hands last year.

In addition to improving relations with Saudi Arabia, Israel has within the past year improved ties with Egypt, opened a diplomatic mission in the United Arab Emirates, and reconciled with Turkey.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Israel in July to offer his government’s assistance in restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Shoukry’s visit marked the first time an Egyptian foreign minister had visited Israel since 2007, and highlighted the closer ties that have been forged in the last few years under the leadership of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Later that month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin attended a reception at the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv in honor of Egypt’s National Day.

Cairo and Jerusalem have also increased military and intelligence cooperation in order to combat terror groups like Hamas and the Islamic State’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt has been destroying underground tunnels between Sinai and the Gaza Strip in order to prevent the smuggling of weapons and fighters between the two groups, which closely cooperate with each other. ISIS forces in the Sinai perpetrated major attacks against Egypt, and Hamas has both trained ISIS fighters and provided them with medical care.

Ayoob Kara, a Druze member of the Knesset and Israel’s Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation, told Tablet Magazine in August that “our relations with our neighbors are the best they’ve ever been.”

[Photo: ضيوف القنوات / YouTube ]