Sputnik spoke with Middle East political analyst Catherine Shakdam to get an idea of how an alliance between the two regional powerhouses might impact upon the Middle East’s security environment, and how the Saudi population might respond to its government working with Israel.
So could this intelligence sharing between Israel and Saudi Arabia really mark the beginnings of a new strategic alliance between Riyadh and Tel Aviv on one hand, and Iran and Hezbollah on the other and if so what consequences do you see this having on the security environment of the Middle East?
Catherine Shakdam: Yes of course I think these two alliances are becoming more defined in a way, but they were always there. I don’t think it’s a surprise for many people, especially experts to see Saudi Arabia and Israeli being quite chummy in recent times as they have shared intelligence before.
I think it’s just the first time they are quite willing to become public with it and actually acknowledge the fact that yes there is a strategic alliance between the two powers for very obvious geopolitical reasons. As far as Iran and Hezbollah goes, again, because of the identity and ideology that underpins Hezbollah, the resistance that they have formulated against Israel to protect and preserve the sovereignty of Lebanon, they would be allied with Iran. A lot of the time we tend to forget that the only reason for Hezbollah’s existence was actually to resist foreign oppression and it will of course continue to be quite close to Iran, again for very obvious reasons. Not just ideologically speaking but for religious reasons too – they share the same school of thought.
What could be the political consequences for Riyadh if it were to openly engage with Israel in public sight of its own population and other Arab populations, considering that many still see Israel as an enemy state?
Catherine Shakdam: It’s going to be a very difficult situation, and I think that the important thing to remember is that while a lot of the Arab people – if we can classify them as such – are opposed to Tel Aviv in the sense that they are talking about the political system. It’s not the people they are opposed to but the system that Tel Aviv represents. It’s going to be very difficult for Saudi Arabia to reclaim the religious legitimacy that it has had, not just over the decades, but the centuries towering over the Islamic world, and yet, lay in bed with the enemy. Because Israel has done so many grave injustices across the Islamic world, but the Middle East in particular, it’s going to be very difficult for Riyadh to sell this.
I would predict that it is going to force its direct regional partners to make a very difficult choice here: whether they will sit by Saudi Arabia and actually support its political direction, or actually realise that they will have to maybe go on the side of people and actually represent their wishes. It’s going to be a very tough one, and I think the Saudis are underestimating the power of the people and they should remember what happened back in 2011, and understand that uprisings are now a political reality.