Jan. 3, 2018
- When I wrote a book about Saudi Arabia’s contribution to the rise of global terrorism after 9/11, back in 2003, the Israeli security establishment at the time estimated that between 50 and 70% of the Hamas budget came from Saudi Arabia. But something happened since then that changed this picture.
- In May 2003, Riyadh was struck by a triple suicide bombing attack – 18 people were killed and Saudi Arabia shifted from being on the side of those who were launching these terrorist attacks to those who were victims of terrorism. Basically, Saudi Arabia from that point onward was on the same side as the United States and Israel.
- While it was true that Wahhabi Islam was associated with the revival of jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, the ones who were really behind the ideological push towards renewed terrorism were organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, which had sought and received sanctuary in Saudi Arabia.
- So what draws Israel and Saudi Arabia to the same side of the fence today?
- First, there are the Sunni extremist organizations. Both al-Qaeda and ISIS have mounted a threat to both our countries.
- Second, clearly Iran looms large in the regional problems that both Israel and Saudi Arabia face. Just a few years back, the head of Israeli military intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash, revealed that analysis of Iranian missile tests indicated that there were two cities on the Iranian target list: one was Riyadh and the other one was Tel Aviv.
- There’s a third common thread tying Israel and Saudi Arabia together. Both countries are facing Iranian efforts to destabilize our strategic environment.
The Iranians have been seeking to encircle Israel by supporting terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip to our south, in Lebanon to our north, and now in Syria and possibly even the West Bank in the period ahead. Today, it is the Islamic Republic of Iran that is providing the bulk of funding to the Hamas budget.
For Saudi Arabia, it’s clear that Iran has entered into Yemen through the Houthis to the south, they are trying to take over Bahrain which they regard as a province of Iran, and they have these huge Shiite militias that have been active in Iraq as well.
- Over the last number of years I have met with senior officials who in the past worked for the Saudi government. I am convinced that Israel and Saudi Arabia share common concerns. I think Israel should make every effort to try and bridge the gap with Saudi Arabia, even discretely, even though there are glitches that can occur as two countries with very different backgrounds try and find common ground.Amb. Dore Gold, former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center.
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