How does China-brokered Saudi-Iranian normalization affect Israel? — RT World News

Restoring diplomatic ties could derail the region’s unification strategy against a ‘common threat’

One of the main goals of the Israeli and US governments is to foster the normalization of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and part of the strategy to achieve this was to unite the two against what has been described as a common enemy. , Iran. The Saudi-Iranian rapprochement now seems to have put a damper on these efforts, and thus enraged the Israelis.

After five rounds of talks over a two-year period, Iran and Saudi Arabia were unable to reach a compromise for the restoration of diplomatic relations, which China has now managed to negotiate in a shocking turn of events. Based on the long rivalry between Tehran and Riyadh, US and Israeli policy towards Saudi Arabia has been based on fighting a common enemy shared by all parties. Although the US government itself has not reacted with open animosity to the sudden shift in regional dynamics, Israelis are publicly interpreting this as a negative development.

In June 2022, the Wall Street Journal reported that a previously undisclosed meeting had taken place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, during which a number of Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, had met with the Israeli military chief of staff of the time, Aviv Kochavi. Part of the discussions that took place would have been directed towards the formation of a Arab-Israeli Defense Alliance. Although no such alliance was formed, it was widely speculated at the time that US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia the following month would include talks on the subject. Despite the failure of the United States and Israel so far to forge such an alliance, it is clear that part of the strategy to achieve normalization has been to secure defense interests.

Across the Israeli political spectrum, from the coalition government to the opposition, the finger pointing took place, in an effort to shift blame for Israel’s perceived failure to prevent Saudi-Iranian normalization. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tried to shift the blame to the former government, an idea refuted by former Israeli Mossad chief Efraim Halevy as “factually incorrect.” On the other hand, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the agreement a “a serious and dangerous development for Israel.” Yair Lapid, another former prime minister and current opposition leader, also says it’s a “Total and dangerous failure of the Israeli government’s foreign policy.”

The big question now is whether the China-brokered normalization deal will negatively impact potential normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Reuters reported that, according to an unnamed senior official israeli official, the Saudi-Iranian deal will not have a significant impact on Saudi-Israeli relations. It is also not clear whether the agreement contains clauses related to Israeli normalization. According to Carmiel Arbit of the Washington-based Atlantic Council, the Saudis could try to conduct a balancing act like the UAE did. The UAE, which signed its own normalization agreement with Israel in 2020, has since 2019 succeeded in defusing tensions with Iran and currently maintains cordial relations with both parties.

It is however unclear whether the Abu Dhabi model will be applicable to the Saudis. Simply put, Riyadh has a lot more to lose than the Emiratis, due to its vast regional entanglements and domestic constraints, and has therefore chosen to keep its distance from the Israelis at this time. The internal political crisis in Tel Aviv could also play a crucial role in the Saudi decision to advance the normalization of relations with Iran, as instability within Israel, coupled with a potential escalation of conflict with the people Palestinians, could seriously hamper a formal diplomatic breakthrough.

A crucial result of Saudi-Iranian normalization, however, does not necessarily have to do with Israel’s own relations with the Saudis. Fighting Iran, especially its nuclear program through coercive measures, is an active political position on both sides of the political divide in Israel. Netanyahu has put the issue of fighting Iran, even by direct force, at the forefront of his campaign to win elections late last year. Throughout Bennett and Lapid’s past unity coalition, the anti-Iran stance has also proven to be a cornerstone of Israeli regional policy.

Carrying out aggressive actions, such as a direct attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, may now be much more difficult for the Israelis to pull off, with Saudi Arabia taking a non-combative approach towards Iran. Although the nuclear issue is perhaps the most pervasive issue for the Israeli public, Iran’s regional alliances and defense programs are the real threats to Israel. If Saudi-Iranian relations are able to flourish and the China-brokered deal holds, it could mean that Riyadh’s efforts in Lebanon against Hezbollah could be curtailed, which is certainly a concern for Israel.

Iran, through its relationships with regional political parties, governments and local militias, also possesses the ability to pull strings that could benefit Saudi Arabia if it returns the favor by doing the same. This is particularly the case with regard to the conflict in Yemen. One thing that Ansarallah, also known as the Houthis, has been able to prove in its efforts against the Saudi-led coalition since 2015 when the war started is that they are capable of defeating equipment. defence, made in the United States. Iran, as a close ally of Ansarallah, could help bring about a long-term truce or even a lasting peace, which the United States simply cannot offer. Ending this war would be in the security interests of the Saudis, who will undoubtedly suffer if the violence resumes, especially if missiles and drones start hitting their vital infrastructure again.

Just as Beijing has proven capable of fostering Saudi-Iranian normalization, Tehran could provide the opportunity to properly broker a peaceful solution in Yemen. However, it is simply too early to tell if such a development will take place. What the deal undoubtedly does is prove Israel’s weak regional capabilities, as well as the waning influence of the United States. Israel’s security concerns over Syria and Lebanon could be heightened if the China-brokered deal offers a more peaceful approach inside those two nations. Saudi Arabia could also reestablish ties with the Syrian government, as the United Arab Emirates has already done, which could help Damascus recover from its brutal war and current state of economic ruin. A strong and united Syria could also pose a strategic threat to Israel in the future. While Saudi-Israeli normalization is by no means off the table, the Saudi-Iranian deal could pose a serious regional challenge to Israel’s current political approach.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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