Saudi Arabia and Israel have the funds and political means to work together. This is what Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud said in an unprecedented interview with an Israeli TV channel. Prince Turki stressed that relations with Arab countries would only be possible if the Palestinian issue is solved.
Sputnik has discussed Saudi-Israeli relations with Dr Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and former deputy director general and head of the Palestinian desk at the Ministry for Strategic Affairs.
Sputnik: Do you think there has been a serious improvement in this alliance that you're saying has already existed, post-summit that took place in Warsaw?
Dr Kobi Michael: First of all we have to differentiate between Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab countries, mainly the Gulf States. Saudi Arabia is the most important one because it is the biggest and the most powerful country there in the Gulf; and I think that the Warsaw summit is something that actually proves that the relations are already there. They became more public and they were may be exposed to the broader public, but it was not the sort of, I would say, any significant improvement to the relations, as I said, that already existed.
And I think it becomes more and more easy for these Arab countries to speak about it loudly and in a clear manner, in the sense that it's not a secret anymore. But we have to differentiate, first of all, between the leadership and leaders of these countries and the broader public and constituencies of these countries; because among the leaders it is pretty clear that there is a need to cooperate and to even broaden the cooperation, but the problem is with their constituencies, mainly in Saudi Arabia.
Sputnik: Of course, there's differences between the two countries as well, the primary issue is Palestine. Do you think that they will be able to ever be on the same page on Palestine?
Dr Kobi Michael: I really doubt it because I think that even if they will introduce a moderate plan or a modified or adjusted Arab plan in comparison to the 2002 Arab plan or initiative, I think that it will be automatically rejected by the Palestinians. So I really doubt the option that any initiative that they will introduce will be accepted by the Palestinians, and if it will be rejected by the Palestinians then they will be obliged to follow the Palestinians.
I mean they will have a problem with their constituencies; because the Palestinian issue, although it is not as important today as it used to be several years ago in the eyes of the Arab constituencies that were indoctrinated during decades against Israel and were indoctrinated about the importance of the Palestinian issue, it will be a sort of almost an impossible mission for the Arab leaders to promote or to advance the relations with Israel as long as there is no peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.
And I think that the probability for such a treaty or such an agreement, the final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is not beyond the corner, it is something which is not here, or it's not in the near future.
Sputnik: What other motives do the two sides have for some kinds of rapprochement?
Dr Kobi Michael: First of all, they have the American pressure. We have to understand that the Americans are pressuring the Arab leaders to establish the so-called Arab NATO or the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), because they want that their interests here in the region will be preserved by their proxies, mainly by the Arab countries and not by American soldiers or by American troops on the ground. They want to withdraw from the area, at least to minimise their presence here in the Middle East. But they still have some major interests here and they want the other guys in the neighbourhood to do the job.
So first of all, they're pressuring the Arab countries to make a move forward and they see Israel as a very major component in this alliance in this way or another. I think that these countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are dependent on the US. Therefore, they are aware of the pressures of the Americans. This is one reason that might explain the motivation.
Secondly, they have Iran and the extreme Islam. I mean Jihadia Salafia all over the world. The Islamic terrorism; and they understand that they have to build their capacities in order to tackle these challenges, because these are major challenges. For Egypt, it's mainly political Islam and Jihadia Salafia, and we know it's going on there on Sinai Peninsula and along the border between Libya and Egypt; and for the Saudis it's mainly Iran and Jihadia Salafia. And therefore, they know that they have to be able to cooperate and to give their capacities in order to tackle these challenges, and here they find Israel as the most reliable ally here in the region.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr Kobi Michael and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.
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