JNS, Mar. 13, 2023
“… the decision does not have practical implications for Israel—because if Saudi Arabia wants to normalize relations with Israel, it will do so.”
The March 10 announcement by Saudi Arabia and Iran regarding their re-establishment of diplomatic relations after a seven-year severance jolted not only the Middle East but also the United States, after it was revealed that China played a key role as mediator.
While some in Israel quickly pinned the decision on a Saudi perception of Israeli weakness due to the country’s ongoing domestic political crisis, others took a different view.
Prof. Eyal Zisser, vice rector of Tel Aviv University and chair in Contemporary History of the Middle East, told JNS that the Saudi decision was actually about Riyadh’s perception of Washington, not Jerusalem.
“I believe that Israel was not a factor in the Saudi decision. Saudi Arabia in any case is not counting on Israel to protect it. It had hoped that the United States would protect it, but the Americans turned out to be hesitant, following the 2019 unmanned aerial vehicle attacks on Saudi Arabia, the UAVs launched against oil tankers and oil facilities,” said Zisser.
While Saudi Arabia, a leader of the Sunni Arab bloc, remains adversarial to Shi’ite Iran and does not trust it, nor does it seek war with the Islamic Republic, said Zisser.
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