Saturday, May 6, 2017

The New Arab-Israeli Alliance

To understand what is happening in the Middle East outside of Syria and Iran we need to recognize an important regional alignment, between Israel and its Sunni Arab neighbors. Since the media has mostly ignored this issue—this blog has not—it is worth examining the facts in detail.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the Arab shift toward Israel and away from Iran.

It begins with a rationale provided by the Quran:

Mohammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, the secretary-general of the Muslim World League, a Saudi-based global organization that has been accused of spreading extremism, recently pointed to a lesson in coexistence from Islam’s past. “The neighbor of the Prophet [Muhammad] was a Jew, and when that Jew was ill, the Prophet visited him and gave him kind words,” said Mr. al-Issa, who is also a former Saudi minister of justice. “The hard-liners don’t wish to know that.”

In this shift the Saudis are leading the way:

This new tone toward Jews—and, to a lesser degree, Israel—is becoming particularly prominent in the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia. For these wealthy Sunni monarchies, it is Shiite and Persian Iran that poses the most pressing current threat to their interests. They view the Jewish state—a foe of the regime in Tehran and its regional proxies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia—as their de facto ally.

The Obama administration’s “empower Iran” policy set the groundwork for the new alliance. The election of Donald Trump, the candidate preferred by both the Israelis and the Saudis contributed:

This unlikely partnership has gathered steam with the rise of Saudi Arabia’s new deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the architect of the Yemen war, who wants a more vigorous response to Iran. And it has received new momentum since the election of Donald Trump, the preferred candidate of Israel and the Gulf states. The White House said Thursday that Mr. Trump’s first foreign trip as president will feature stops in both Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Important Saudi leaders are saying so explicitly. And one notes that when Hamas recently revised its charter to remove much of the flagrant anti-Semitism, the hand of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates was evident:

“We have the same enemy, the same threat,” Saudi Maj. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, now the kingdom’s deputy intelligence chief, said in February. “And we are both close allies of the Americans.”

Pressure from the Gulf—particularly from Hamas’s longtime backer Qatar—played a key role in the Palestinian group’s decision Monday to remove slurs against Jews from its revised charter. Israel scoffed at the changes, noting that Hamas retained its goal of “liberating” all of historic Palestine—which would mean eradicating the Jewish state.

Israelis have noted the positive changes:

Still, some Israeli officials have praised the Gulf monarchies’ shift on Hamas. “Most of [Hamas’s] support came from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf in the past,” said Ayoob Kara, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the only Arab minister in Israel’s cabinet. “Now the Saudi Arabian coalition understands more and more that Hamas is an extremist organization and that extremism and terror are also against them, not just against Israel.”

Obviously, after filling the minds of its people with hatred for Israel these nations will need some time to change what we call hearts and minds:

Such feelings are widespread among the people of the Gulf states too, so most of the recent cooperation with Israel—focusing on intelligence and security matters—has occurred in secret.

But, the Arab nations have taken some small public steps:

But some small steps have been public. An unofficial Saudi delegation, led by a retired general, visited Jerusalem last year and met with Israeli officials. The United Arab Emirates has permitted a small Israeli mission to the U.N.’s renewable-energy agency, based in Abu Dhabi, and Emirati officials are weighing whether to allow low-key Israeli participation in the 2020 Dubai World Expo.

Importantly, these nations are fed up with the irrational intransigence of Palestinian leaders:

Many in the Gulf shrug at such complaints. “Saudi Arabia has always wanted to support the Palestinian cause. It negotiated on their behalf, it spent a lot of money on their behalf,” said Mr. Ibrahim. “But unfortunately, the Palestinian leaders do not want to get along and are not working for their own people. You cannot just say no to everything.”

Under its new leadership Saudi Arabia has recognized the need to modernize, to enter the modern world, to become a player on the world stage. It has understood that petroleum is not forever and that it needs science and technology to develop as a modern nation. On those scores the Palestinian cause, however much it appeals to brain dead Western leftists, will not provide very much help.

As I have occasionally noted, when it comes to the Middle East, Israel is the solution, not the problem.


Ares Olympus said...

Yes, it is important to consider that Saudi Arabia is not a monolithic society, and their economic success depends on western technology and weapons more than the holy Quran.

And I can recall it was the Saudi leadership's allowance of U.S. Military bases being built in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf war in 1990, when Saddam invaded Kuwait that got Osama bin Laden to use millions from his wealthy family to start training camps in Afghanistan. So there's a harsh tension between Islamic purism and western influences that have to be kept continually at bay.

The whole problem of Saudi Arabia's fractured reality comes because there's so much money flowing, so its easier to pay off the fundamentalistic Wahhabism clerics than to challenge their funding of terrorism. Like this article from last August suggests:
In the realm of extremist Islam, the Saudis are “both the arsonists and the firefighters,” said William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar. “They promote a very toxic form of Islam that draws sharp lines between a small number of true believers and everyone else, Muslim and non-Muslim,” he said, providing ideological fodder for violent jihadists.

Yet at the same time, “they’re our partners in counterterrorism,” said Mr. McCants, one of three dozen academics, government officials and experts on Islam from multiple countries interviewed for this article.

Stuart: It has understood that petroleum is not forever and that it needs science and technology to develop as a modern nation.

I'm sure many of the 30,000 princes realize this reality, and are carefully dividing their share of the oil wealth and stashing a good share into western property for the day that their fundmentalists get too uppity and start a real revolution in the final days of the House of Saud. Still, as long as oil is flowing, and they have money to buy arms, order will be maintained.

Here's a 14 year old article of worries, so maybe they've got another 14 years at least?

No one can seriously imagine a land of largely desert will be inhabited by civilized folks, so smart money surely won't stay when the oil is diminished.

Like the famous line "My grandfather rode a Camel, my father rode a Camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a Camel", although I guess he was from the UAE.

The Arabian peninsula might actually be a more peaceful place when the money is gone. And even the fundamentalists who just want to read the Quran can find simple lives that don't require fighting western invaders any more.

And for all I know, the Israelis, who never had oil, they'll become the techological teachers of the Middle East in the coming decades. We all like happy stories, and brave men sometimes can outwit fanatical fools lost in their own religious imaginings.

Sam L. said...

"Importantly, these nations are fed up with the irrational intransigence of Palestinian leaders:..." It's worked for them so far, so I'd say there's rationality in it somewhere.

If the Arabs can ever get their heads around the intelligence of the Israelis and decide to learn from them, that will be a great day.

James said...

The Israeli's remain the great wild card in the Middle East. I have supported them for 55+ yrs and this has not changed one iota. The Sunni bloc (Saudis etc) have run to Israel ever since they've realize Turkey will not/cannot be their savior from Iran/Persia. Erdogan and others in Turkey dream dreams of the old Ottoman Empire. An empire of low round furniture which is gone never to return. I can'[t get on my soapbox for this one (I'm really bad about it).

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Wow. Ares got through a comment about Israel on this blog without sounding like a doctrinaire anti-Semite. Nice work, kid.