Two news items in the media that may be harbingers of a new order in the Middle East have attracted my attention. First, Lieut. Gen. Gaby Eisenkot, CinC of the IDF, gave an unprecedented interview with a Saudi newspaper and in it he stated that Israel would be prepared to share intelligence on Iran. He expressed his view that Israel and Saudi Arabia have identical policies with regard to Iran’s attempts to take over control of the Middle East and that they could work together to prevent this.
The other report was an anonymous statement that Saudi Arabia is prepared to spend billions of dollars to facilitate a military alliance with Israel. This would probably mean building airbases and other facilities that would enable the IAF to use Saudi air space and to have landing and refueling facilities that are compatible with their aircraft. Initially the Saudis will expect Israel to destroy Hizbollah in Lebanon. This is a lot more than the previously presumed agreement that Saudi Arabia would allow Israeli aircraft to over-fly their territory en route to attack Iran.
If these reports come to fruition, then the Middle East will be transformed, with an Israel-moderate Sunni coalition that could match and defeat Iran in its Shia expansion plans. Iran has already taken three steps that have greatly concerned Saudi Arabia and destabilized the Middle East: 1. They have trained Iraqi Shia militias and in fact these militias are a proxy for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG); 2. They have negotiated a sweet deal with the Western powers that enables them to openly obtain a nuclear weapon in some 8 years from now; 3. They have opened up two areas of attack, in the north through Syria and Lebanon with Hizbollah and in the south with the Houthi rebels in Yemen. No wonder Saudi Arabia feels insecure being surrounded by pro-Iranian forces. Israel is also feeling insecure with potential IRG and Hizbollah forces set to try to establish a forward base on the Syrian side of the Golan heights.
The one issue that is always brought up to preclude such an Israeli-Saudi coalition is the Palestinian problem. But, Saudi Arabia is facing a huge challenge to its continued existence as the leader of the Sunni world, and frankly it does not have the military capability to confront Iran, nor after Pres. Obama does it feel it can rely on the USA to protect it. Faced with such a challenge to its very existence, the Saudis would be very foolish to allow the Palestinian issue to prevent them doing what they need to do, that is make an open alliance with Israel to defeat Iranian aggression.
Therefore, it was no coincidence that Pres Abbas of the PA visited Riyadh last week and presumably asked the future King of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, not to make such an alliance with Israel, at the expense of the Palestinians. But, a threat to your existence focuses the mind, and the Saudis have always only given lip-service to the Palestinian Arab cause, but never really forcefully adopted it. They sometimes give donations, but rarely the full amount they committed, and they have always been hostile to the Palestinians themselves, not allowing them to enter the Kingdom except under special circumstances. They must soon make their choice, either continue to support the Palestinians and forgo a military alliance with Israel and risk the overthrow of their regime, or downgrade their support for the Palestinians and enter into an peace agreement with Israel and hence be able to survive the Iran menace. I predict that they will take the latter path.