A Saudi-Israeli Peace Deal?
Who Wants What, and Why!
9/7/23 By Tim Buck
“Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations,
and gather yourselves there… for I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.”
The Saudi Crown Prince, Muhammad bin Salmon (MBS) “prefers a deterring – rather than a deterred – Israel.”
A conclusion of an Israeli-Saudi-Palestinian-US (peace or normalization) accord requires the U.S. State Department to recognize:
– The inherent constraints of the inter-Arab arena;
– The predominance of the Saudi – over Palestinian – interest;
– The intra-Arab Palestinian track record;
– The critical role of Israel’s posture of deterrence.
Dangers of Inter-Arab Arena
Any accord would have to acknowledge the unique features of the inter-Arab arena, which has demonstrated – since the 7th century – violence, intolerance, fragmentation, local over national identity/loyalty, no peaceful-coexistence, no democracy, but despotic rulers, who ascend to – and lose – power through “the bullet” rather than the ballot. Hence, the tenuous and unpredictable nature of rulers, their policies and accords.
MBS, played a key role in orchestrating the Abraham Accords and has displayed exceptional courage and tenacity in modernizing Saudi Arabia, religiously, culturally, economically and educationally. However, he operates in the unpredictable, Arab environment, as evidenced by domestic and external threats surrounding Saudi Arabia like Iran, and including a power struggle within the royal family, and the intensified tension between MBS and the puritan-like Wahabbi Islamic establishment in central and southwestern Saudi Arabia, which was accepted until recently as the leading authority on Islam and an essential ally of the House of Saud since 1744.
Saudi Interests First
Saudi – not Palestinian – interests have guided MBS’ policy toward Israel, which he views as a vital ally, militarily, technologically and diplomatically, in the pursuit of his ambitious “Vision 2030.” This vision aims at leveraging the Saudi geography and wealth, transforming the kingdom into a regional and global financial, military and diplomatic power. Israeli technology especially plays an important role in the building of MBS’ future city NEOM.
MBS has no illusions about the volcanic nature of the Middle East, including his assessment of the lethal threat posed by Iran’s Ayatollahs, irrespective of the resumption of diplomatic ties. He considers Israel as the most reliable ally in the face of mutual threats (e.g., Iran’s Ayatollahs and Muslim Brotherhood terrorists), especially against the backdrop of the eroded US’ posture of deterrence.
Israel’s technological capabilities are sought by MBS
in order to diversify the energy-reliant Saudi economy and expand sources of national income.
MBS is aware of Israel’s positive stature on Capitol Hill (despite the antagonistic radical wing of the Democratic Party), which possesses the power of the purse and is co-equal to the Executive Branch in finalizing the sale of advanced military systems and defense pacts.
The recent Palestinian inter-Arab track record – especially subversion and terrorism against Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Kuwait – has become a role model of rogue conduct and ingratitude. It has determined MBS’ attitude toward the Palestinian issue. The Crown Prince is also aware of the Palestinian intimate relationships with terror organizations in the Middle East (especially Hamas and the Moslem Brotherhood), Europe, Africa and Latin America, as well as with Iran’s Ayatollahs, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba and the Soviet Bloc.
MBS realizes that a Palestinian state would add fuel to the Middle East fire, and he therefore limits his support of the Palestinians mostly to talk, refraining from significant actions. He’s not willing to sacrifice Saudi interests on the Palestinian altar and will not tolerate a Palestinian veto power over Saudi relations with Israel, which he perceives as an essential ally in the pursuit of “Vision 2030.”
Israel’s posture of deterrence has induced MBS to seek closer ties with the Jewish State. He appreciates Israel flexing its military muscle against Iran in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and even on Iranian soil, and Israel’s war on Palestinian and Islamic terrorism.
Israel’s posture of deterrence is upgraded by its determination to fend off U.S. pressure when it comes to critical national security matters, such as the bombing of Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear reactors, which spared Saudi Arabia the wrath of a nuclear Saddam Hussein and a nuclearized civil war in Syria.
MBS prefers a deterring – rather than a deterred – Israel.
Keep the Mountains, 6-Day War
Israel’s posture of deterrence has been substantially upgraded since winning the 6-DAY WAR in 1967, upon regaining control of the mountain ridges of the Golan Heights, Samaria and Judea (the West Bank), which constitute the cradle of Jewish history, religion and culture, as well as the minimal security requirements in the volcanic and shifty Middle East.
A retreat from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria – which are a fixed asset of national security – in return for an accord with Saudi Arabia – would transform Israel from a war- a
nd terror-deterring country for the U.S. to a war- and terror-inducing country and a burden on America. It would exacerbate Middle East instability, enhance Iran’s Ayatollahs, along with Russia and China, while dealing a blow to vital U.S. interests.
In fact, major waves of Palestinian terrorism erupted following dramatic Israeli gestures/concessions, such as 1993 Oslo, the 2000 withdrawal/flight from Lebanon and the 2005 “disengagement” from Gaza. But interestingly no significant terrorism followed such actions as the reunification of Jerusalem, the application of Israeli law to the Golan Heights, the construction of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and the destruction of Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear reactors. It seems the anti-Israel Arab world respects peace through Israel’s strength.
Can Biden Succeed
The looming question is how deceived and stricken is the Biden administration foreign policy? Is the U.S. State Department aware that Saudi Arabia’s policy is driven by Middle East reality and its own interests, not by Western conventional wisdom and Palestinian interests?
Is the State Department cognizant of the fact that while Saudi Arabia would rather avoid a Zionist sovereignty in the “abode of Islam,” it respects Israel’s history and security-driven posture of deterrence, and its willingness to defy U.S. and global pressure?
Is the State Department mindful of the fact that the Saudi Crown Prince is preoccupied with “Vision 2030,” aware of Israel’s potential contribution to this mega-vision, and therefore encouraged the Abraham Accords, while concluding unprecedented commercial and defense agreements with Israel?
Is the State Department aware that Saudi frustration with the U.S. diplomatic option toward Iran is pushing the Saudis closer to China and Russia?