Sunni Saudi Arabia is coming to terms with its regional and religious foe, Shiite Iran, under the auspices of China.
The agreement restores diplomatic relations between the two countries and revitalizes security cooperation between them. It also revives the 1998 agreement covering economic, technological, scientific, cultural and sporting ties. This Chinese diplomatic shift makes it difficult for the United States and Israel to build a regional anti-Iranian alliance as Tehran moves to develop nuclear weapons.
setback for Israel
The deal runs counter to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s main foreign policy goals: isolating Iran and establishing diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has already had clandestine security and trade relations with Israel for some time.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described the resumption of relations between Tehran and Riyadh as a serious defeat for Netanyahu. He risks reducing the chances of Saudi Arabia joining the Abraham Accords, which were negotiated under Trump’s auspices, and whose goal was to isolate Iran by persuading Arab countries to sign diplomatic and trade relations agreements with Israel.
In 2020, Israel normalized its relations with three Arab countries, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. Their leaders saw the economic and security benefits they get from Israel as more important than solidarity with the Palestinian people. They can now reconsider their decision.
Netanyahu is in trouble
The agreement comes as Israel plunges into the most serious political crisis in its history.
Netanyahu and his far-right government want to give politicians control of the judicial system at the expense of the country’s Supreme Court.
He has a personal interest in doing so. He will be allowed to overturn any court decision against him. He is currently charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
If found guilty, he would be, after Ehud Olmert, the second Israeli prime minister to serve a prison sentence.
His gambit sparked unprecedented mass protests in Israel, and tested Israel’s relationship not only with the White House, but also with American Jews.
The North American Jewish Federation, a philanthropic giant that raises $3 billion annually, sent a letter to Netanyahu opposing his bill. But the main Israel lobby in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has yet to take a stand.
The Saudis have cards to play
according to The New York TimesIn return for normalizing relations with Israel, Riyadh would like US assistance in developing a civilian nuclear program and fewer restrictions on US arms purchases.
This agreement could also reinvigorate the Saudi offer to sign a peace agreement with Israel if the Jewish state accepts the creation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Conditions that Netanyahu will reject, but will allow Riyadh to score points.