What is Saudi prince’s strategy in recognizing Israel?

Saudi Crown Prince Salman has declared that Israel has a right to exist

What is the Saudi prince’s strategy in recognizing Israel?

Saudi-Israeli relations

April 03,2018 – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has declared that Israel has a right to exist. What are the reasons behind this statement? Does it signify closer ties between the countries?

In an interview published on Monday with the US magazine The Atlantic, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Israel had a right to exist.

The crown prince told the magazine that Saudi Arabia has no problems with Jewish people. He pointed that Islam’s Prophet Muhammad “married a Jewish woman.”

The crown prince’s statement could signify closer ties between the countries. “Israel is a big economy compared to their size, and it’s a growing economy, and of course there are a lot of interests we share with Israel, and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan,” he said. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel wish to contain Iran, for example. Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia sees Shiite Iran as its main rival vying for influence in the region, with Iran playing a role in the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and other nations.

Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University, told DW that “Iran is the main motivator” behind the changing stance toward Israel. “Saudi Arabia considers its competition with Iran one about leading the Islamic world, with fears that it could be dominated by the Shiites under Iran,” he said. Also, both countries fear that Iran could get nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia would even likely welcome Israel’s striking facilities in Iran that could be developing nuclear material, Nafaa said.

‘Pure nonsense’

Yossi Mekelberg,a professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, told DW that Saudi recognition would be very important for Israel in a part of the world that is hostile toward its very existence. “We can see that Israel is a part of the region and that there need to be fair and just negotiations with the Palestinians, but all the old language that says that Israel should be completely eliminated should stop,” he said. Mekelberg said Israelis would welcome the statement, while Palestinians “would not be as pleased because they feel that the Israelis are getting recognition from the Arab world without paying the Palestinians necessary concessions in the peace process.”

Indeed, Israeli and Arab voices had varied reactions on social media. Elad Ratson, an Israeli diplomat in London, suggested that the crown prince’s statement shows that Saudi Arabia backs his country’s policies within the region.

Yasser al-Zaatreh, a Palestinian writer based in Gaza, reacted to the crown prince’s statement with disdain. “The Zionists have no ‘right’ to any part of Palestine,” he wrote. “They are invaders who came from the corners of the earth to occupy a country and push out their people. This talk of a ‘right’ is pure nonsense.”

Under the Obama administration, US Secretary of State John Kerry made many trips to Israel and Palestine to facilitate negotiations. During the Trump administration, the US has played a less balanced role, declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel — a statement rejected by most of the international community. Now perhaps Saudi Arabia as a regional power has decided to position itself as a major broker for peace. “We have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations,” the crown prince said in the interview.

Mekelberg said Saudi Arabia was undergoing “major changes” as it revisits policies such as not allowing women to drive and its official stance on Israel. These changes are pushing the country into the 21st century, Mekelberg said. “Instead of sticking to old policies that don’t necessarily work, Mohammed bin Salman is re-evaluating them and saying that, at this point in time, Saudi and Israeli interests correlate — and why not recognize it?” he added. “It will put Saudi Arabia in a very good position to be a regional force of advancing peace and to be an honest broker in negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.”
Source: Deutsche Welle, in English, April 03,2018
Description of source: Deutsche Welle is Germany’s international broadcaster, providing radio, television and internet services, communicating Germany’s interests internationally. Deutsche Welle is politically independent and provides news about German political, general and business issues, of interest to national and international audiences. Country of origin: Germany
© 2018. Deutsche Welle.

NO HOLDS BARRED: Is the Saudi crown prince becoming a friend of Israel?

“We have problems like you would find anywhere in the world, among some people.But the normal sort of problems.”

April 03, 2018 – A week ago on these pages I called on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to electrify the world by recognizing the State of Israel. The column was widely quoted and republished. I do not flatter myself in believing that it had any impact on the prince’s thinking, or that he even read it. Yet six days later MBS did something extraordinary and historic. In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, he all but recognized Israel. Asked by Goldberg whether he accepts that the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland,” MBS responded: I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”

The words may seem straightforward, but they are historic. Saudi Arabia is the 600-pound gorilla of the Arab world. A Saudi ruler who speaks of Israel’s right to exist is a game-changer.

But MBS continued. Goldberg asked him if there was a religious-based objection to the existence of Israel?” The crown prince and effective ruler said, We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people.

This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.”

And in perhaps the most interesting response, when asked about the existence of antisemitism in Saudi Arabia, the prince said: Our country doesn’t have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend – he married her. Our prophet, his neighbors were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia coming from America, coming from Europe. There are no problems between Christian and Muslims and Jews. We have problems like you would find anywhere in the world, among some people.

But the normal sort of problems.”

I grew up hearing of Saudi Arabia’s racist polices of not allowing Jews into the country and its sworn animosity to Israel’s existence. Now you have a Saudi crown prince speaking openly of Israel’s right to exist, Jews living in Saudi Arabia, and calling Ayatollah Khameini, the spiritual head of Iran, a man who is worse than Hitler.”

Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. This is bad. But the supreme leader is trying to conquer the world. He believes he owns the world. They are both evil guys. He is the Hitler of the Middle East. In the 1920s and 1930s, no one saw Hitler as a danger. Only a few people. Until it happened. We don’t want to see what happened in Europe happen in the Middle East. We want to stop this through political moves, economic moves, intelligence moves. We want to avoid war.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has, of course, been preaching the gospel of Khameini as a genocidal Hitler wannabe for years. Few took him seriously and US president Barack Obama especially made it seem like Khameini was a man he could do business with.

But now you have the leader of Saudi Arabia making the case even more strongly against Iran than the Israeli prime minister.

And on Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, which so many of us fought so hard against, MBS made a powerful argument against both it and the huge cash infusion that the deal brought to Iran.

The economic benefits of the Iran nuclear deal are not going to the people… they took $150 billion after the deal – can you please name one housing project they built with this money? One park? One industrial zone? Can you name for me the highway that they built? I advise them – please show us something that you’re building a highway with $150b.”

Of course, not everything with Saudi Arabia is roses.

There are still serious human rights abuses that must be addressed, and the country still has zero diplomatic ties with Israel. The rights the crown prince wants to accord women, like driving, voting, or running for office would seem basic and obvious to anyone in the West and nothing to applaud. But still, progress should be applauded.

So, is MBS becoming a friend of Israel and the Jewish people? Many would say no, that his decisions are purely transactional, his purpose nothing more than stopping Iran, his outreach to Israel of the the enemy of my enemy of is my friend” variety.

Perhaps so. Never having met him, I do not know his heart.

But I will say this.

Many years ago, when rabbis like me started reaching out to the Evangelical Christian community because of their public statements in support of Israel, we were vilified.

Yes, our critics admitted, Christian Evangelicals are stalwart supporters of Israel, especially in supporting and electing pro-Israel politicians. But, they said, their motives are suspect. Their support for Israel is all based on an eschatology in which Jesus can’t come back until the Jews are gathered back to the Holy Land.

But once Jesus comes back, the Book of Revelation says the Jews are going to get walloped for having rejected Jesus.

I wrote a lengthy book called Kosher Jesus to respond to these allegations. I summoned a great deal of scholarship to rediscover the Jewish Jesus that lay hidden behind so much Christian gauze. But my main argument was this: Christian support for Israel should not be examined for its motive but its effect. I personally believe that Christian Evangelicals love the Jewish people and Israel because of biblical teachings. But for those who believe that their motives are nefarious and troublesome, Judaism focuses on action, not motive.

One should always do the right thing even for wrong reason,” the Talmud teaches. We are not a religion that focuses on intent so much as on effect and impact.

So, does MBS hate Iran or love Israel? Only he can answer that question, and there is certainly reason to believe that the former is much more compelling for him than the latter. But in the final analysis, a Saudi future king who is speaking of Israel’s right to exist, who is beginning to allow flights to Israel over his territory, who is condemning the funding of terrorist groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and who is speaking openly of Jews living in his land, deserves to be taken seriously and deserves to be engaged.
Source: by Shmuley Boteach, Jpost.com, April 03, 2018
Description of source: Jpost.com is the online edition of The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s leading English language news source, covering Israel, Middle East, alongside world news, business, technology, lifestyle and sports. Jpost.com updates throughout the day, 24/7 and includes a certain amount of daily unique content not included within the print edition. Country of origin: Israel
© 2018, Jpost.com, All rights Reserved.

Arab Leaders Abandon the Palestinians

Saudi-Israeli relations

A retired Saudi Major General Dr. Anwar bin Majid bin Anwar Eshki and Israeli diplomat Dore Gold shake hands at a CFR event, as Elliott Abrams looks on.

April 03, 2018 – On the surface it was business as usual in the Gaza Strip. Hamas bussed thousands of residents to the border with Israel to begin a six-week protest campaign ahead of the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence — or, as the Palestinians call it, the nakba, or “catastrophe.” This protest would mark “the beginning of the Palestinians’ return to all of Palestine,” according to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

It didn’t. Stones were thrown, tires were set aflame, and shots were fired. When the smoke cleared, the borders were still in place and 15 Palestinians lay dead, with three more succumbing later from injuries. While families endured their private tragedies, familiar controversies swirled. The usual people denounced Israel in the usual ways, countered by the usual defenders making the usual arguments.

But what is happening in Gaza today is not business as usual. Tectonic plates are shifting in the Middle East as the Sunni Arab world counts the cost of the failed Arab Spring and the defeat of Sunni Arabs by Iranian-backed forces in Syria.

In headier times, pan-Arab nationalists like Gamal Abdel Nasser and lesser figures like Saddam Hussein dreamed of creating a united pan-Arab state that could hold its own among the world’s great powers. When nationalism sputtered out, many Arabs turned to Sunni Islamist movements instead. Those, too, have for the time being failed, and today Arab states seek protection from Israel and the U.S. against an ascendant Iran and a restless, neo-Ottoman Turkey.

But the American protection on which Arabs rely cannot be taken for granted, as President Trump’s apparent determination to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria in the near term demonstrates. Under these circumstances, Israel’s unmatched access to Washington makes Jerusalem even more important to Arab calculations. Perhaps only Israel can keep the U.S. engaged in the region.

It is against this backdrop that the old Palestinian alliance with the Arab nations has frayed. Most Arab rulers now see Palestinian demands as an inconvenient obstacle to a necessary strategic alliance with Israel. The major Gulf states and Egypt apparently have agreed on two goals. The first is to strangle Hamas in Gaza to restore the authority of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. The second is to press the authority to accept the kind of peace that Israel has offered repeatedly and that Yasser Arafat and his successor have so far rejected.

Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are playing for time. They support the first goal by refusing to pay the salaries of government employees in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip even as they resist pressure to make peace with the Jewish State. It is not yet clear what the authority’s final response to the peace pressure will be. Even if it ultimately decides to accept an Arab-sponsored compromise, making a show of resistance can improve its credibility with the Palestinian public and, perhaps, extract better terms.

Hamas is in an even more desperate plight. The Arab blockade and donor strike cripples Gaza in ways the Israelis never could. Food is growing scarce, electricity is erratic, unemployment exceeds 40%, and raw sewage runs into the sea. Many Gaza residents presumably want the only thing Hamas can’t offer: relief.

Historically Hamas has reacted to this kind of pressure by launching wars against Israel, trusting its friends abroad to force the Jewish state to cease fire before it can inflict serious damage on Hamas’ leadership. But in the 2014 war, Arab foot-dragging gave Israel time to deal a serious defeat to Hamas. Another war would be equally ruinous and for the same reason: The Arab governments want Hamas crushed, and they won’t stop Israel from doing the job.

The current demonstrations, Hamas hopes, can whip up a global wave of rage and indignation against Israel without provoking a full-on war. That might weaken the Arab coalition against it. But the prime audience for Hamas’s performance this time isn’t the Arab world; it is Turkey and Iran, whose support Hamas will need to survive if it is driven from Gaza (as Arafat was once driven from Jordan and Lebanon).

Rifts between Palestinians and other Arabs are nothing new. But the collapse of Arab nationalism and the failure of Sunni radicalism have weakened the political forces that rallied Arab support to the Palestinian cause. With millions of new Arab refugees in Syria, and growing threats to Arab independence from powerful neighbors, prioritizing Palestine is a luxury many Arabs feel they can no longer afford.
Source: By Walter Russell Mead, The Wall Street Journal, April 03, 2018
Description of source: National daily newspaper serving the business community with influential reports on companies, markets, politics and international news. Includes images. Country of origin: United States
© Copyright 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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