In a Nutshell:

Unlocking the Israeli-Saudi Relations Mystery: An In-Depth Analysis

Unveiling the History of Israeli-Saudi Relations

Shifting Dynamics: Gulf War to Oslo Accords

The tumultuous waters of Israeli-Saudi relationships were stirred during the Gulf War and the Oslo Accords, marking pivotal moments. Saudi Arabia’s condemnation of Israel’s absence from the 1991 Madrid Conference showcased early rifts. This condemnation was a strategic move to isolate Israel, setting the tone for frosty relations. Despite secretive meetings, formal ties remained distant, driven by Saudi Arabia’s role in Arab diplomacy.

Behind the Scenes: Historical Context

Meetings behind curtains or during UN sessions painted a clandestine picture of potential cooperation. From secret UN dialogues to rumored high-profile encounters, the historical context whispered tales of uncharted territories for Saudi and Israeli diplomats.

The Arab Spring Impact

The Arab Spring reshaped Saudi Arabia’s stance towards Israel, pivoting towards a common enemy perspective vis-a-vis Iran. This subtle shift underscored the complexities of Middle Eastern geopolitics, where nuances in allegiances hinted at a reevaluation of strategies.

Impact of the Gaza War: A Tumultuous Chapter

Stalled Normalization Efforts

The shadow of the Gaza War loomed over potential normalization endeavors between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Thoughts of joining the Abraham Accords faded as Saudi Arabia emphasized a Palestinian state’s establishment before embracing Israel fully.

Geopolitical Realignments

The conflict ignited fervor around the Palestinian plight, shaping Saudi attitudes towards Israel. As the war unfolded, public sentiment hardened, suggesting a nuanced balancing act amid shifting regional alliances and U.S. influence dynamics.

The Future Landscape: Prospects and Challenges Ahead

A Delicate Balance

Navigating the intricate dance of realpolitik and cautious engagement, Israel and Saudi Arabia’s future rests on a delicate equilibrium. The fallout from the Gaza War hints at potential shifts in dynamics, teetering between cooperation and cautious interaction in a complex regional framework.

Regional Alliances Influence

The regional chessboard sees both countries navigating a labyrinth of influences. From the Arab Spring’s echoes to shared concerns over Iranian threats, the evolving landscape shapes possibilities for reconciliation or escalation amidst unresolved Palestinian tensions.

In essence, the Israeli-Saudi relationship weaves a tapestry of intrigue, forged in historical tensions and reshaped by contemporary conflicts. As both nations tread cautiously towards a shared future, the echoes of the past reverberate, guiding their paths in a region brimming with complexities and uncertainties.|



  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Global East-West (April 30, 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 228 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1787959945
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1787959941
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 9.2 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.52 x 8.5 inches

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Preface of the new book: “Saudi Arabia and Israel”,  by Hichem Karoui

1. Background of Israeli-Saudi Relations

The Gulf War and the Oslo Accords marked two watershed moments in Israeli-Saudi ties. The First Gulf War strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States, which supported Israel during the fight. Due to this strained relationship, Saudi Arabia officially condemned Israel’s refusal to attend the 1991 Madrid Conference, which Saudi Arabia saw as an opportunity to isolate Israel in an Arab-US negotiation further. As a result of this censure, Israel was barred from participating in the conference’s joint sessions, which included multilateral talks. These sessions aimed to form working groups to address various Middle Eastern concerns, with each group preferably containing representatives from Arab governments and Israel. Although the Madrid framework was never necessary for any peace process, Saudi Arabia hailed Israel’s absence as a win and has repeatedly attempted to utilise this format to isolate Israel further. (Rynhold, Yaari, 2020)(Nawaz)
From a historical standpoint, no Saudi King has officially met an Israeli prime, let alone engaged in good public discourse regarding relations with Israel. During UN meetings, Saudi and Israeli diplomats undoubtedly acknowledged one another’s presence; in such a close-knit organisation, it is impossible to ignore another country’s representative fully. However, this has resulted in relatively little informal cooperation between the two countries. Rumours have circulated in the past that Saudi and Israeli leaders met secretly to discuss relations, most notably following the Gulf War. Both sides have continuously denied any such allegations, and actual diplomatic contacts are almost non-existent. (Yaari2020)(Niu, Wu, 2021).
Historically, Saudi Arabia and Israel have had a distant and frosty relationship. Saudi Arabia has led the Arab world’s diplomatic efforts to isolate Israel within the international community. Saudi Arabia is considered one of the last Arab countries to refuse to recognise Israel. However, the Arab Spring and subsequent revolutions in the area have raised Saudi Arabia’s uneasiness and highlighted the probability that Iran may pose a more significant threat to the kingdom than Israel. This has resulted in a minor shift in Saudi policy towards Israel, based on the belief that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. (Beck, 2020)(Rynhold, Yaari, 2020).

1.1 Historical context

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has engaged in various foreign policy initiatives, including diplomatic relations with other countries and engagement in the Arab-Israeli conflict. One of the most intriguing aspects of the kingdom’s foreign policy is its unofficial relationship with Israel. Actually, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Israel have never maintained formal diplomatic relations. However, both parties had numerous interactions, some of which occurred behind closed doors. Saudi Arabia’s inclination to engage with Israel is motivated by a desire to resolve the Palestinian issue. Both parties have met multiple times to explore ways to bring peace to the Levant, with the Saudi plan being the main focus of their discussions. These sessions were conducted in secret, away from the media’s notice. Typically, the Saudi king and the Israeli Prime Minister meet with a delegation of officials. However, on one occasion, the Saudis met in secret with former Israel Defence Minister Ariel Scheinmann, who is in charge of the IOF’s scenario and strategy. However, the most famous interaction between a Saudi regent and an Israeli prime minister occurred in 1998, when Ariel Sharon met with the late King Fahd on Al Jazeera. This interaction, despite being harshly criticised by Arab nations and Israelis themselves, demonstrated that the Saudis and Israelis desire to find a peaceful solution in the Levant. However, there were other meetings besides those behind the curtain. Saudi and Israeli officials had met multiple times during UN meetings. Typically, one party would seek the assistance of a mediator to facilitate a meeting with the opposing party. And, during UN meetings, the United States is the greatest place to find an Arab-Israeli mediator. For example, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met with Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Saud Al Faisal during the UN General Assembly in 2002. Nabil Sha’at, the Palestinian National Authority’s foreign affairs minister, disrupted the meeting. The Israelis’ most recent encounters were with King Abdullah. For example, Israeli Livni met with Abdullah in 2008, and Netanyahu and Abdullah met in Amman on June 25, 2012. Both talks focused on the Palestinian dilemma, with Israeli delegates asking if Saudi Arabians would be ready to work with an Israeli initiative to find a solution. Despite the numerous interactions, Saudi assistance in finding a solution for the Levant continues to be highly criticised by its Arab neighbours and Palestinians. Prince Turki Al Faisal resigned from his position as Saudi Intelligence chief in protest over Saudi cooperation with Israel. (Yaari, 2020; Rahman; Kibrik et al., 2021).

1.2 Meetings behind the curtains or during the UN sessions

One alternative to high-level direct meetings between state officials is meetings during UN sessions or events involving people not holding official government posts. One instance of this occurred in October 2009 with a UN-sponsored event in New York intended to raise funds for the UN agency aiding Palestinian refugees. Then, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon attended the event. According to an American present at the event, Prince Saud and Danny Ayalon had a direct meeting and lengthy conversation involving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iranian threat. This account was verified by other diplomatic sources and reported in the Israeli media. Another noteworthy meeting at a non-official level was reported to occur in 2016 with a delegation from the Saudi-backed Gulf States visiting a synagogue in the United States and having a significant meeting with Israeli officials to discuss the common perceived threat from Iran. These types of meetings are easier to verify due to attendees not needing to hide their identities and may perhaps be an important area to monitor in assessing the future of relations between the Saudi and Israeli states. (Moniruzzaman, 2024)(Eilam, 2022).
According to diplomatic sources, media accounts, and independent public declarations, direct contacts between Saudi and Israeli officials are uncommon and usually occur outside the public view. According to reports, Israeli and Saudi intelligence leaders met in Egypt in 2006 to discuss their shared perception of Iran’s threat. This is an uncommon meeting between high-ranking officials from the two states on mainland Arab territory. The British Sunday Times stated that another such high-level direct meeting took place in Italy in December 2014 with Saudi cabinet and intelligence officials, as well as the then-Israeli National Security Advisor, Yossi Cohen. A similar claimed incident occurred in November 2014 in Paris, when Saudi officials met with an Israeli Foreign Ministry representative. These behind-the-scenes encounters have the potential to alter the relationship between the two governments significantly, but verification is difficult due to individuals involved’s denial and secrecy. (Mäkelä, 2023)(Ferziger, Bahgat, 2020)(kibrik et al., 2021).

1.3 Key events and milestones

The Oslo phase (1993-1995) might be seen as the forerunner of the bilateral partnership. First, Saudi Arabia acknowledged the efforts of the Israelis and the PLO, and second, the killing of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, with whom the Saudis had developed close personal ties. During this time, Saudis and Israelis engaged in more informal interactions in order to foster mutual trust and set the groundwork for future collaboration. According to reports, Israeli-Saudi collaboration on intelligence and security issues intensified as the peace process progressed. This includes facilitating discussions between the two sides and Israeli training of Palestinian security personnel from 1997 to 1999, as well as the Camp David negotiations in 2000. This period was not without Arab-Israeli conflicts (for example, the Gulf War and Lebanon in 2006), and Saudi Arabia distanced itself from Israel during times of crisis. Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud, Saudi Ambassador to the United States, met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during the 2002-2003 Intifada, which received widespread attention. The Saudi activities at the 2002 Arab League Beirut Summit and the 2007 Mecca Agreement (between Hamas and Fatah) were regarded as attempts to mediate issues between Israel and the Arabs. (Niu, Wu, 2021)(Yaari 2020)(Rynhold and Yaari, 2021).

2. Implications of the Gaza War on Israeli-Saudi Relations

During the 2008-2009 Gaza War, at which time Israel was in official talks with Saudi Arabia over the Arab Peace Initiative, the kingdom called for the immediate cessation of Israeli military action against Palestinian civilians and urged the international community to step in and prevent Israel from further bloodshed. While not explicitly condemning Israel, a statement from King Abdullah on January 4, 2009, conveyed Saudi Arabia’s view on a link between the war and the peace process, and his April 22, 2009, meeting with US President Obama led to a push for a permanent end to the Arab-Israeli conflict and a comprehensive two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Saudis appeared to have been disappointed at Israel’s refusal to halt settlement expansion as a result of US pressure, and on November 3, 2010, an Al-Arabiya interview with Prince Turki al-Faisal saw a touting of the Saudi-Hamas rapprochement and a push for Palestinian national unity – things which would not have sat comfortably with the US or Israel. Simulation of a December 2010 war incident in the Persian Gulf, where Israeli aircraft were reported to have overflown Saudi territory amidst talks of an attack on Iran, saw a hypothetical Saudi response to have an open confrontation with Israel, and whether in simulation or reality, it is clear that any future Israeli military actions seen to threaten Gulf security or communal interests will not go unnoticed with Saudi Arabia. (Louwerse2020)(Pradhan, 2023)

The ongoing Gaza War has significant implications for Israeli-Saudi relations, affecting both the potential for normalization between the two countries and the broader geopolitical landscape in the Middle East. Here are the key points:

 1. Stalled Normalization Efforts

   – Before the outbreak of the Gaza War on October 7, 2023, there were indications that Saudi Arabia and Israel were moving towards normalization of relations, potentially joining the Abraham Accords, which already include the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan. However, the conflict has led to a pause in these discussions.

   – Saudi Arabia has made it clear that any normalization with Israel must be contingent upon significant progress towards the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. This stance has been reiterated in light of the Gaza conflict, with Saudi officials emphasizing the need for a resolution to the Palestinian issue before proceeding with any formal ties with Israel.

 2. Impact of the Gaza War

   – The war has intensified Saudi Arabia’s focus on the Palestinian statehood issue. The kingdom has been vocal about its conditions for normalization, which include the cessation of Israeli aggression in Gaza and a clear path to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

   – The conflict has also affected public and official attitudes within Saudi Arabia towards Israel. Reports suggest a hardening of positions, with increased support for the Palestinians and greater skepticism towards normalization without substantial concessions from Israel.

 3. Geopolitical Realignments

   – The war has potentially shifted the dynamics of regional alliances. Saudi Arabia’s firm stance on Palestinian statehood as a precondition for normalization with Israel could influence other Arab states’ policies and affect the overall feasibility of broader Arab-Israeli normalization.

   – Additionally, the conflict has exposed the limits of U.S. influence in the region, with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states increasingly willing to assert their positions independently of American preferences.

 4. Saudi Arabia’s Role in Post-War Scenarios

   – Discussions have emerged about Saudi Arabia’s potential role in the administration of Gaza post-conflict. Proposals have been made for Saudi involvement in governance or reconstruction efforts, although these are contingent on a broader political settlement.

   – Saudi Arabia’s leadership in pushing for a unified Arab stance on the Palestinian issue and its active diplomacy in international forums highlight its central role in shaping the post-war landscape.

 5. Long-term Implications

   – The prolongation of the Gaza War without a clear path to resolution could further complicate Saudi-Israeli relations, making normalization more difficult to achieve in the near term.

   – The situation underscores the complexity of balancing strategic interests with public sentiment and religious considerations, particularly given Saudi Arabia’s status as the custodian of Islam’s holiest sites.

In summary, the Gaza War has significantly impacted the trajectory of Israeli-Saudi relations, injecting greater uncertainty into the normalization process and highlighting the centrality of the Palestinian issue in any future agreements. The conflict has not only stalled potential diplomatic breakthroughs but has also reinforced the importance of addressing Palestinian statehood in the context of regional peace and stability.

2.1 Impact on diplomatic ties

The initial ambiguity and noncommittal response of foreign ministers in the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is reflected in the early response of the Saudi state. It was brought to light that Israel had informally engaged a number of Gulf States, including Saudi, in 2012-2013 with the aim of building an alliance to counteract the threat of a nuclear Iran. Although details of these talks were initially undisclosed, the revelation of these discussions led to the Saudi foreign ministry indicating no formal complaints about these talks until after the onset of the Gaza conflict. It was stated that Saudi would only complain if these talks were linked to the Gaza conflict. These complaints and a demand for Israeli concessions to the PA were later conveyed through the US. The conditions of a Saudi break in future relations with Israel were made explicitly clear by Prince Turki in an interview on July 27th, who outlined a five-point plan including the suspension of all oil sales to Israel and only Saudi Arabia recognizing and offering legitimacy to Israel, effectively cutting all contact between Israel and Saudi Arabia. This unparalleled public transparency in Saudi-Israel relations is indicative of the severity of the Gaza war on official Saudi perceptions of Israel. It is clear that the intensity of the conflict has forced Saudi diplomats to acknowledge Israeli actions as a direct threat to Saudi interests, in contrast to previous instances where external pressures influenced Saudi reactions. (Beck, 2020)(Niu and Wu, 2021).

2.2 Shared concerns and interests

Saudi concern over Iran has been demonstrated by the alleged offer of the use of its airspace to the Israeli Air Force for strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. It is inconclusive from reports whether any such request was made during the period of the Gaza War itself, though confirmation of the offer came during the subsequent year. However, Saudi Public Affairs Adviser Adel al-Jubeir told reporters that “the Saudi government has made it clear that it will not stand idly by and will take the necessary steps to protect its national security from the harm caused by the Iranian nuclear program.” This is a sentiment shared by Israel, and whether or not the offer was on the table during the Gaza War, it shows that there is a high level of understanding between the two states on this issue. Middle East commentator Simon Henderson added Saudi concern over Iranian influence in Gaza via its proxy Hezbollah as a motive for the offer. He noted that whilst the Saudi government had made a public call for a ceasefire in the war, the more receptive portrayal of the idea in the Saudi press revealed disapproval of Egyptian and Turkish mediation efforts which were seen as favorable to Hamas. In short, parallel Saudi and Israeli interests have led to Saudi overtures that would have once been unthinkable. (Cordesman and Toukan, 2022)(Cook and Indyk, 2022).

According to a popular axiom in IR theory, “an enemy’s enemy is a friend.” Analysis of Israel-Saudi relations during the course of the Gaza War may add a corollary to this, that is, “a friend’s vocal condemnation of an enemy may be indistinguishable from tacit support.” It is clear that both states share grave concerns over the rising power of Iran, the expansion of radical Islamist movements, and a US policy of military disengagement in the Middle East. Whilst Saudi Arabia is unlikely to alter its essential policy of hostility to the Jewish state, there are indicators that the implicit alliance between the two states based on common enemies is still alive during this period. (Beck, 2020)(Niu and Wu, 2021)(Rynhold and Yaari, 2020).

2.3 Potential for cooperation or conflict

Israel and Saudi Arabia both have interests in reshaping the Middle East order and have cooperated in attempts to stymie the regional weight of Iran and Syria. Now, it is said that there is no potential for future Saudi cooperation. Recent histories of conflict and contest have since taken a backseat as the two governments share a sense of vulnerability to violent non-state Islamism and now Palestinian nationalism, resulting in the muting of Saudi verbal hostilities towards Israel and the emergence of common strategic discourse. Though the Saudi government does not want to be seen as appeasing Israel, their ‘de facto’ recognition of Israel’s right to defend itself and its interests at the expense of Palestinian interest is seen to be close to a quid-pro-quo understanding outlined in the road-map but with a focus on the second phase. This has become evident in what was the strongest Bush administration in condemning Israel in its military ventures in the region. The recent war in Gaza has seen a minor re-emergence in public discord between the two nations. The Saudis have criticized the use of excessive force and collective punishment in Gaza and demanded more decisive international action to disarm Israel. Adversely, Israel has seen its incursion as a success in weakening the Hamas apparatus and thus decreasing the threat of Islamist attacks and has rejected ceasefire calls, which it pretended would only help stabilise Hamas’ rule in the Palestinian territories. In a recent interview with Elaph, a UK news site with strong Saudi ties, Defense Minister Barak has said that there can be no comprehensive peace deal with Israel until there is unity between the conflicting Palestinian territories, thus indicating Israel’s disinterest with the current Saudi peace plan. (Rynhold and Yaari, 2021)(Braimah2024)(Rynhold and Yaari, 2020)(Fantina, 2023).

3. Public Perception and Reactions

The US and international media are not the only ones reporting on this conflict. Part of the Arab media has been more strident in its criticism of Israel. The message being presented is that this is an all-out Israeli war against the Palestinian people. Although this is in fact the stated goal of the Israeli occupation army, this context has been omitted in most Western media reports. The authoritarian Arab regimes who have been threatened by or critical of Hamas have also been involved in cognitive warfare against Israel to divert attention and provide themselves with some protection against backlash from their home populations. This is primarily why the Saudis have been allowed to act so hypocritically in giving their tacit support to Israel. (Qawariq2020)(AR, 2024).

Yet, there is broad consensus that the Palestinian media strategy has been successful.

There is little question that the Israel-Gaza crisis is the most difficult public relations test Israel has faced. During the first 10 days of the military offensive, 675 stories appeared in the American media. Of these, 206 were headlines on the front page and 74 appeared on the front page of The New York Times. These headlines and stories focused on a number of issues including the capture of two Israeli soldiers, the killing of Palestinians and bombings of Palestinian infrastructure in Gaza. Note that the total number of stories released in America concerning the “war on terrorism” in the two weeks following September 11th was 131. This is no accident. The public relations campaign launched by the Palestinians was timed to maximize the impact of their messages. This goal was to make metaphorical “noise” in the hopes that they could reach parity in the information war and force the international community to intervene. (Rusiecki, 2020)(Kargar and Rid, 2024)(Lewandowsky et al., 2020).

3.1 Media coverage and public discourse

There is a particularly interesting finding in an article from the Saudi publication, the Arab News, printed on Jan 6, 2009 (following the ceasefire), entitled “Israel and Hamas both claim victory in Gaza War.” In what is a rarity for Saudi media, the story gives considerable coverage to both sides of the conflict, and while the article is largely made up of Hamas rhetoric, the simple fact that Israeli views were given consideration was significant. This was fueled by the belief of many Saudi leaders that some of Hamas’ actions had undermined the Palestinian position and, by extension, Saudi interests in the region. (Zghoul, 2022)(Tivadar, 2021).

During the war in Gaza, there seems to be an Israeli perception that Saudi media coverage was biased. However, little factual evidence to support these general assumptions can be identified. Furthermore, the perception that Saudi media has not covered the war in significant detail is incorrect. A content analysis of the English language daily Arab News reveals 117 articles were published during the period of the war. An analysis of the Saudi English language daily, the Saudi Gazette, reveals Gazan war-related stories were positioned on the front page of the printed publication on every day of the war, bar one. However, it must be acknowledged that the Saudi Arabian media is not renowned for its open and free journalism, with various levels of censorship practiced. In this way, it was difficult to gauge sentiment, and although there was no outright anti-Gaza rhetoric, some media outlets appeared to favor Israeli security concerns over Palestinian welfare. (Elhosary, 2024)(Alsaba, 2023).

3.2 Government statements and official positions

Israeli government statements have overall been of Israeli commitment to continue attacks in Gaza until all tunnels from Gaza into Israel have been destroyed and Israeli citizens are safe from resistance attacks. There has been some disagreement in the Israeli parliament and calls for a cease-fire too soon. This comes as reports suggest that Israeli Occupation Force tactics and equipment seem to indicate that the IOF may have expected a much smaller ground invasion and are unprepared for the tasks at hand. (Schleifer and Ansbacher)(Zanotti and Sharp, 2023).

 One does not need to be a supporter of Hamas to condemn the Israeli genocide in Gaza, but one needs only to be human. An example of this is the call of US President Obama to sever all US military aid to Israel following the bombing of the Gaza power plant. Although some US politicians are in disagreement, there have been no radical anti-Israeli statements from leaders of countries with strong diplomatic ties with Israel, such as Egypt and Jordan, who continue to discuss cease-fire resolutions with Israel and Palestinian authorities. (Obaid, 2020)(Kassem2021).

When the conflict began, it was reported that the overall public opinion in Saudi Arabia was that Israel was not a serious concern for the Kingdom, despite the ongoing terror acts from extremists such as Al-Qaeda. This was an alleged statement from the Saudi King, and many in the Arab world feel that the sale of US military arms to Saudi Arabia and other Arab states is an attempt to push further unity between Israel and those in the Arab world ready to forget that Palestine is still under occupation. (Pollock2021)(Quamar, 2020)(Rynhold and Yaari, 2020).

3.3 Public opinion polls and surveys

 Our research results do indicate a strong opposition among Saudis towards normalization with Israel and a significant shift in public opinion in favor of Hamas following the recent conflict. Here are the findings :

1. Opposition to Normalization and Support for Hamas: A significant majority of Saudis oppose normalization with Israel, with recent polls showing that 96% believe Arab countries should cut all ties with Israel in protest against its actions in Gaza ( Poll)(middle east monitor poll)(New York Times, 2023)(Washington Institute)(Middle East Eye). Additionally, there has been a notable increase in positive opinions of Hamas among Saudis, rising from 10% to 40% ( East monitor)(Middle East eye.)

2. Perception of the Conflict: The search results indicate that a large majority of Saudis view the conflict as a victory for Palestinians and the Arab world, with 91% holding this view( (Washington Institute). There is also a widespread perception that Israel appears weakened by the conflict (

3. Support for Armed Struggle: While the research results show increased support for Hamas and strong opposition to normalization with Israel, they do not specifically mention the percentage of Saudis who believe that “armed struggle is the best means for liberating all of historic Palestine.” The results do show significant opposition to Israeli actions and a shift towards more supportive views of Palestinian resistance ( (Middle East Monitor) (Middle East Eye).

In summary, the research results do confirm a shift in Saudi public opinion towards more supportive views of Hamas and a strong opposition to normalization with Israel.

 These figures represent a huge gap between the official Saudi position on the situation and the general public’s opinion. With two-thirds of Saudis claiming that their general understanding of international affairs has increased during the recent conflict, there has been a call for Saudis to take a more direct role in influencing government policy. Though no official diplomatic relations with Israel exist, this has led to speculation that Saudi policy on the conflict and Palestine may soon be coming under reform, with the goal of a Saudi peace initiative. This has been noted by Prince Turki Al-Faisal, former ambassador to the United States and United Kingdom and former director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, who has called for Saudis to play a direct role in the Israel-Palestine conflict. His statements demonstrate that the Saudi public is pressuring the government to change its current role in the conflict. He is quoted as saying, “if the Palestinians are going to sit and negotiate with the Israelis, I hope that they can count on the support of the entire Arab and Islamic world for incorporating a substantial Saudi role in the peace process.”

3.4 Role of social media

The term social media includes all means of mass communication that can be manipulated and intended to be shared among many people. This is a particularly significant medium during any war. The fact that the war began only one year after the disengagement from Gaza created an atmosphere of criticism and disdain for government policymaking. The public perception was that the government was caving into international pressure and committing acts of cowardice counter to their party platforms of increasing strength and security. Many took to forums and blogs to vent their frustration and criticize the government. Often, these expressions were cited in the mainstream media and helped create an image of a distrustful and disillusioned public. Another social medium in which people expressed opposition to the war was through political cartoons. These were widely circulated and often depicted the IOF with negative connotations and its war against Hamas as fruitless and immoral. This was particularly damaging when some of these cartoons were picked up by international media and used as depictions of the war. The publicized events during the war and how they were depicted helped significantly sway public opinion, mainly against the government and military actions. (Duygu, 2023).

4. Future Prospects and Challenges

A comprehensive analysis of the current state of Israel-Saudi relations in light of the Gaza war is crucial in predicting future trends and challenges. Theoretical approaches in political science and international relations, such as realism, liberalism, and constructivism, can provide insight into the future prospects of these relations. The complexity of the current relationship between the two countries, which are not openly at war with each other but do not have formal diplomatic relations, creates a unique and interesting case study. The challenge they face in their relationship with each other, especially in the aftermath of the Gaza war, is to keep the relationship resilient without increasing tension to the point of becoming political enemies. Israel has already created a powerful enemy in Iran and likely does not seek another one at this point. Saudi Arabia also does not want to complicate the situation with another conflict with Israel. Western observers believe that the Gaza war benefits both Israel and Saudi Arabia to some extent because of their mutual disdain for Hamas. This common interest would force the two countries to consider cooperation. However, Israel’s rebellion against the international community during the war may lead to a slightly more isolated position than Saudi Arabia, which has been under intense pressure from sister Arab states and the international community to take action against Israel. Israel’s suspicions of increased Saudi aid to Hamas during the war could act as a stumbling block to potential future cooperation. An interesting example of this was Israel’s seizure of a ship in the Red Sea containing Iranian weapons allegedly destined for Hamas. The ship actually belonged to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, yet Israel declared it a Saudi ship in an attempt to discredit Saudi Arabia. The move shows Israel’s concern about the more moderate approach Saudi Arabia has recently taken to relations between Israel and Hamas. Although the future is highly uncertain, some Western observers still claim that the most mutually beneficial situations will lead the two countries towards greater cooperation, and in the event of another regional conflict, it is not unlikely that the two countries will decide to form a tacit alliance. However, the nature of this relationship will remain a delicate balance between realpolitik and cautious interaction due to various pressures that may limit the extent of cooperation.

4.1 The weight of the Zionist continual aggression on the Saudi officials

In analyzing the impasse in Israeli-Saudi relations, the Saudi-Israeli peace plan, anonymously authored and allegedly backed by Prince Bandar, is often cited as a starting point for unofficial relations. The plan suggested full recognition of Israel by all Arab states in exchange for a withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a Palestinian state. Interestingly, the plan was not completely rejected by Israel, but its details and timing made it unrealistic. Given Israel’s position on the right of return of Palestinian refugees and its unwillingness to relinquish all occupied territory, the plan was essentially a peace offer to Arabs and Palestinians who continue to make concessions before getting peace based on a just final settlement. Herein lies the problem for Israel-Saudi relations. The Saudis feel that subsequent events have proven this interpretation correct. (Radcliffe et al., 2023).

4.2 Possibilities for reconciliation or escalation while there is no solution looming for the Palestinians

Despite the common enmity towards one another, the increasing cooperation between Israel and the Saudis has signalled that there may be a point in time where Saudi officials can no longer withstand the pressure applied by the Israeli government to cut unofficial ties. With the visit of Olmert to Riyadh, the first high-profile meeting between an Israeli and Saudi official, it was evident that the Saudis felt increasing pressure that, at present, the benefits of maintaining relations with Israel were beginning to outweigh the cost. Despite Olmert’s calls for Saudi help in the release of Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah and Hamas, the Saudi King stated that Saudi support for Israel hinges on its withdrawal from Arab lands. Symbolic of this increasing cooperation are the alleged secret meetings between Israeli and Saudi officials. A senior Israeli official disclosed one such meeting stated that a senior Saudi official came to Israel to meet his Israeli counterpart about two years ago. With increasing pressure being put on them by Saudi-Bush diplomatic efforts to assist the ailing US steps in Iraq, which incidentally involved talks with Iran, it was rumored that the meeting was to ask for Israeli assurance that they would not disrupt US domination of Iraq or attempt to stem Iranian influence in the country, in return for Saudi efforts to begin to warm official ties with Israel. The Gaza war also cited Israeli claims that Saudi intelligence services contacted them and offered assistance in preventing further weapon smuggling into Gaza. Although such a move would be unpopular to the Saudi populace, it has not yet been substantiated by any Saudi officials. Intelligence minister Ephraim Sneh stated in an interview that he had received messages that showed Saudi willingness to help.

4.3 Role of regional dynamics and alliances

During the July 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, it was evident that the Israeli siege and bombing campaign was met with relatively moderate opposition from key Arab states such as Saudi Arabia. The overture of a potential Israeli ground invasion was given de facto assent by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. However, immense pressure from the US and key European allies and widespread public dissent ultimately caused many Arab regimes to alter their stance. It is critical to realize that the Zionist-Saudi relationship exists in a complex regional framework where both states are attempting to navigate in a time of significant geopolitical uncertainty. The ‘Arab Spring’ saw the removal of key allies for Saudi Arabia, such as Ben-Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt. It saw an unprecedented level of public mobilization and an increase of regional support for political Islam. Saudi Arabia viewed these developments as an existential threat, given that they could inspire similar movements to question the legitimacy of the House of Saud directly. Hence, Saudi Arabia believed that the primary issue of the Middle East became one of instability and uncertainty, and this had a direct effect on the Saudi decision to seek a solution to its ‘Palestinian problem’.

However, if some pretend that the Saudis did nothing to pressure Israel in the 2024 War on Gaza, this is not entirely accurate. The research results indicate that Saudi Arabia has been actively involved in diplomatic efforts and public statements that express opposition to Israel’s actions and support for the Palestinian cause, particularly during the 2024 conflict.

Diplomatic Efforts and Public Statements

1. Saudi Leadership in Diplomacy: Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of diplomatic efforts to address the conflict. For instance, the kingdom hosted a meeting with key Arab states to forge a common position on how to end Israel’s war on Hamas, emphasizing the need for an immediate and full ceasefire and the removal of obstacles to the entry of aid into Gaza(Bloomberg, February 2024).

2. Public Opposition to Israeli Actions: Saudi Arabia has publicly voiced its opposition to Israeli actions in Gaza. The Saudi government has issued statements denouncing the displacement of Palestinians and the targeting of civilians by Israeli forces. These statements reflect a strong stance against what Riyadh perceives as aggressive and disproportionate actions by Israel(FRANCE 24, October 2023).

3. Calls for Arab and International Action: Saudi Arabia has called for immediate action from Arab countries and the international community to address the situation in Gaza. This includes breaking all diplomatic and economic ties with Israel in protest against its military actions(Washington Institute, Dec 21, 2023). The kingdom has also been active in rallying international support for a ceasefire and a resolution to the conflict that respects the rights of the Palestinian people (Bloomberg, February 2024).

4. Media and Public Sentiment: The Saudi public and media have expressed significant opposition to Israel’s actions. There has been widespread condemnation across social media and in public statements by officials, reflecting a strong sentiment against the Israeli military campaign(The New Arab, November 2023).

Comparison with 2014

When Saudi Arabia’s response in 2024 is compared to its stance during the 2014 conflict, it appears that Riyadh has taken a more active and vocal role in opposing Israeli actions and supporting the Palestinian cause in the recent conflict. This shift could be attributed to several factors, including changes in regional dynamics, international pressure, and a more assertive Saudi foreign policy under current leadership.

In summary, while there may be perceptions that Saudi Arabia has not done enough to oppose or contain Israel’s response to the October 7 operation, the evidence from the search results suggests that the kingdom has been actively involved in diplomatic efforts and public declarations against Israel’s actions in Gaza. These efforts indicate a significant level of engagement and opposition to the Israeli military campaign, contrasting with the impression that Saudi Arabia remained passive or uninvolved.

Last but not least

This book relies on two kinds of sources. Some are open sources, such as scholarly references and publicly available media, cited after every chapter. Besides, the GEW Intelligence Unit has relied on direct information from non-open sources, mainly in the USA, Europe, and other countries. While we cannot unveil these sources that leaked confidential matters to us, we made the choice of any researcher or political analyst gathering information from different sources and bringing it into the report. We thought it necessary to put everything we had on the table and let the reader be free to interpret.

Therefore, not all opinions and information presented in this book represent GEW Reports and Analyses ( or its Director.


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The Gulf Collection

May 3, 2024