Israel–Saudi Arabia relations

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Israel–Saudi Arabia relations
Map indicating locations of Israel and Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia

Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations. News reports have surfaced indicating behind-the-scenes diplomatic and intelligence cooperation between the countries.[1][2][3]


A charter member of the Arab League, Saudi Arabia has supported Palestinian rights to sovereignty, and called for withdrawal from the West Bank and other territory occupied by Israel since 1967. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has changed its viewpoint concerning the validity of negotiating with Israel, in which it previously refused. It calls for Israel's withdrawal from territory occupied in June 1967; then-Crown Prince Abdullah extended a multilateral peace proposal based on withdrawal in 2002, that would follow the borders of two state solution. At that time, Israel did not respond to the offer. In 2007 Saudi Arabia again officially supported a peaceful resolution of the Arab–Israeli conflict in which Israel was to concede to withdraw to the borders set in the two state solutions, which generated more official negative reactions from Israeli authorities, citing the Oslo Accords and the Saudis' deviation from those accords. At this time, no demands were made of any other party other than of Israel.

Saudi Arabia rejected the Camp David Accords, claiming that they would be unable to achieve a comprehensive political solution that would ensure Palestinian Arabs can all move to Israel and the division of Jerusalem. In response to Egypt "betraying" the Arab States and signing peace with Israel, Saudi Arabia, along with all the Arab States, broke diplomatic relations with and suspended aid to Egypt; the two countries renewed formal ties in 1987. Simultaneously Saudi Arabia and Israel initiated their early steps towards a secret dialogue.[4]

Saudi Arabia does not have official diplomatic relations with Israel. In 2005, Saudi Arabia announced the end of its ban on Israeli goods and services, due to its application to the World Trade Organization, where one member country cannot have a total ban on another. However, as of August 2006, the Saudi boycott was not cancelled.[5][6][7] However, Saudi Arabia recognizes that its ally, the United States, has a strong and supportive relationship of Israel.[citation needed]

In spite of not having official diplomatic relations, they cooperate with each other by intelligence exchange, especially about Iran. In a meeting at the Washington office of the Council on Foreign Relations, Anwar Eshki, a retired major general in the Saudi armed forces and Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussed "their common interests in opposing Iran".[8]

Saudi Arabia played an active role in attempting to bring the Palestinians towards a self-governing condition which would permit negotiations with Israel. It has done so primarily by trying to mend the schism between Fatah and Hamas, most notably when King Abdullah invited the two factions to negotiations in Mecca resulting in the Mecca Agreement of February 7, 2007. The agreement soon failed, but Saudi Arabia has continued to support a national unity government for the Palestinians, and strongly opposed the war in Gaza in early 2009.

The Times has reported that Saudi Arabia has tested the ability to stand down their air defenses to allow an Israeli strike on Iran to pass through their airspace.[9] Both nations have denied this.[10][11]

After the Arab Spring, Israel views the Saudi government as "guarantor of stability", according to the New York Times. In 2011, Israel approved a German sale of 200 Leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia.[12] The approval came from Uzi Arad, the national security advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu.[13]

During the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, Middle East Eye editor David Hearst wrote an article claiming that Saudi Arabia was supportive of Israel's actions in the conflict, and that officials from Mossad and the Saudi intelligence agencies met regularly.[14] The Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz, denied that the Saudi government was allied with Israel, describing Israel's actions against civilians in Gaza as "crimes against humanity" - however he did not deny that the two countries had contact, saying that "any dealings by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with Israel have been limited to attempts to bring about a plan for peace".[15]

According to a May 23 article by The Times of Israel, the London-based Arab paper Rai al-Youm reported that Israel had offered to provide Saudi Arabia with Iron Dome technology against rockets from bordering Yemen. The proposal was reportedly sent via American diplomats during a meeting in Amman, Jordan, and subsequently refused. Official sources have not confirmed the report.[16]

A political analyst by the name of "Mujtahid" who has been leaking information against Saudi Arabia on Twitter since early 2000s alleged that an upcoming drone-assembly plant in Saudi Arabia that is being developed with cooperation from South Africa is actually a guise for a clandenstine Israeli-Saudi Arabian deal for buying Israeli drones via South Africa. The Israeli drones are first sent to South Africa where they are disassembled and shipped to Saudi Arabia where they are assembled again.[17]

After Egypt agreed to the transferring the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia in April 2016, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia said that his country would honor the terms of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty regarding the islands however they will have no direct contact with Israel over the matter.[18] The Israeli government did not signal any opposition to the deal. Tzachi Hanegbi who heads the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said that the deal does not threaten Israel and welcomed it as a closing of ranks by Sunni Arab states that share Israel's hostility to Iran, Hezbollah and the Islamist extremist insurgents racking the region.[19] Israel's Defence Minister said on April 12 that Saudi Arabia had given it written assurances over freedom of passages in Tiran Straits.[20]

Some journalists in Saudi Arabia were in August 2016 reported to have started shifting their tone towards Israel and Jews and had started to criticise anti-Semitism in Arab countries. Some sections of the Israeli media described it as an apparent media campaign by the country to shape a positive public opinion for deepening of ties between the two nations.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Bridge (12 December 2013). "Accidental allies? Saudi Arabian intel chief allegedly meets Israelis". RT. Retrieved 6 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Greg Myre (25 September 2006). "Olmert reportedly held secret meeting with king of Saudi Arabia". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 6 January 2014. 
  3. ^ YASSER OKBI (5 January 2016). "IDF officer to Saudi paper: Israel has 'common language' with moderate Arab states". MAARIV HASHAVUA. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  4. ^ Bligh, Alexander. 1985. “Towards Israel-Saudi co-existence?” Jerusalem Quarterly, no. 35, 24 - 35.
  5. ^ David Krusch (2006-08-02). "Saudi Arabia Continues Boycott of Israel". Jewish Virtual Library. 
  6. ^ ELI LAKE (2006-06-21). "Saudi Ambassador Says Trade Boycott of Israel Will Not End". New York Sun. 
  7. ^ Arab League Boycott of Israel PDF (42.1 KB) CRS Report for Congress by Martin A. Weiss. Order Code RS22424. April 19, 2006
  8. ^ Snager, David E. (June 4, 2015). "Saudi Arabia and Israel Share a Common Opposition". 
  9. ^ "Login". 
  10. ^ "Israel denies Saudis gave IDF airspace clearance for Iran strike". Haaretz. 2009-01-01. 
  11. ^ "Saudi denies Israel airspace deal against Iran". 2010-06-14. 
  12. ^ "German Leader Criticized for Report of Tank Deal". New York Times. 2011-07-06. 
  13. ^ "Tank Exports to Saudi Arabia Signal German Policy Shift". Der Spiegel. 
  14. ^ Hearst, David (20 July 2014). "Saudi Israeli alliance forged in blood". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 26 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "Saudi Ambassador responds to David Hearst" (Press release). Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the United Kingdom. 26 July 2014. Retrieved 26 July 2014.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  16. ^ "Saudi Arabia 'rejects Israeli offer to supply Iron Dome' - The Times of Israel". The Times of Israel. 
  17. ^ "Are Saudis buying Israeli drones through South Africa?". 
  18. ^ Stuart Winer (April 11, 2016). "Saudis pledge to honor Israel peace terms for islands given by Egypt". The Times of Israel. Retrieved April 12, 2016. 
  19. ^ Dan Williams (April 12, 2016). "Israel signals no opposition to Egypt's return of islands to Saudi Arabia". Reuters. Retrieved April 12, 2016. 
  20. ^ Gili Cohen (April 12, 2016). "Israel: Saudi Arabia gave written assurances over freedom of passage in Tiran Straits". Haaretz. Retrieved April 16, 2016. 
  21. ^ . The Times of Israel. August 12, 2016 Retrieved August 14, 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]