Not just fear of Iran but also economic ambition is making Arab countries more amenable to cooperation with Israel.
Recently, a female Saudi journalist, in an article published in a pro-government newspaper and obviously passed by the censors, stated that the Palestinians “…never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” and that in the past seventy years the Israelis had made more progress than the entire Arab world put together. A former Kuwait government minister in a public television interview indicated that it was high time for the Arab governments to recognize Israel diplomatically. The latter is especially significant because Kuwait, along with Oman, refused to join Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE in boycotting Qatar because of the latter’s ties with Iran. In the meantime, PM Netanyahu made a “secret” trip to Cairo to consult with Egyptian President al-Sisi concerning the situation in Gaza and with reference to Iran.
It is becoming ever more obvious that the time is ripe for better relations between Israel and the surrounding Arab countries, not only due to a shared fear of Iranian imperialism, but also the desire on the part of the Arabs to diversify their economies and join the high-tech revolution. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have elaborate plans to modernize their economies and adopt advanced scientific and technological policies and programs that will enable them to survive and thrive in a world where energy production is becoming ever-more diversified. Emblematic of this development is the project of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sultan (MbS) to create a major city in the far northwest of Saudi Arabia, with a high degree of autonomy (including its own laws and judicial system) and dedicated to economic diversification, science and technology.
The new city, construction of which has already begun, borders on or is very close to Jordan, Israel and Egypt. This is a major opportunity for Israel to offer to participate in the creation of the center and its development thereafter. Such a development would motivate not only the Jordanians and Egyptians to participate as well, but undoubtedly also the Emiratis.
At precisely this moment, with exquisitely bad timing, the Knesset passed a basic law defining Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people.” The appropriateness and need for such a basic law can certainly be, and is being, debated. But what cannot be ignored is the negative reaction on the part of not only domestic groups, especially the Druze community, but also the dampening effect on the burgeoning contacts with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Reaction to the passage of the law on their part has been negative, but rather muted. It can be hoped that this “own goal” on the part of Israel will not prove a major obstacle to improving relations.
This article was originally published by Globes.