As Saudi Arabia has re-engaged with Iran and Hamas is hosted in the Saudi Kingdom has Israel been left out of the equation? Are the Abraham Accords and the hope of peace between Arab countries and Israel dead?
The resounding answer according to Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs president Dan Diker, JCPA fellow and Middle East expert Aviram Bellaishe and the former president of the Bahraini Journalists’ Association, Ahdeya Ahmed Noor is no.
They all attended the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs international conference in March, which featured representatives from 25 African and Arab countries, including unofficial representatives from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Somaliland.
Region of Interests
Host Dan Diker makes the point that people in the West don’t appreciate that the Middle East is a complicated web of competing interests. Countries may not like each other but will make join forces if they see that it serves them in some way.
Speaking of Bahrain, Noor explained that the country may want to establish ties with both Iran and Israel at the same time. The Gulf country may look to establish diplomatic relations with Iran, but “Iran doesn’t have military cooperation of Bahrain. It doesn’t have the intelligence cooperation of Bahrain, Israel has this is a fact and a reality.” Moreover, she said that “Iran has been looking closely at its own interest lately, seven years of attempting to infiltrate Saudi through the Houthis has failed. Now with a war in Yemen, against the coalition and with the internal issues that Iran is having, it cannot afford to continue this war.
Hamas in Saudi Arabia
Diker and Noor also discussed Iran’s proxy, Hamas, and its threat to take over the dominant position of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah PLO faction in the West Bank. Hamas has reached out to Saudis and visited the KSA, reflecting, Al-Sayed said, the failures of the PLO, including rampant corruption and misuse of Middle Eastern support. The vacuum of leadership has grown Hamas’s popularity and Hamas and Saudi Arabia see interest in establishing relations right now.
Israel Visit from Crown Prince of Iran
On the other hand, a recent point of hope has been the highly symbolic recent visit of the Crown Prince of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, to Israel during Holocaust Remembrance Day. Al-Sayed sees Pahlavi as the legitimate leader of Iran and calls the 1979 “revolution” a “terrorist takeover” whose proponents today oppress women and minorities.
Diker also feels hopeful, citing JCPA conference attendance, which remained unchanged despite the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, and included an Iranian diaspora representative. He said that “in the middle of all of the internal domestic crisis going on in Israel over judicial reform and other political issues, they all came, no one left. And that, in my mind, was testimony that the Abraham Accords are still on track. When they saw these 100,000-person demonstrations in the streets of Tel Aviv, in the streets of Jerusalem, we thought from our Western standpoint, oh, my goodness, they’re going to leave, they’re going to hide. What did they say? No, this is democracy. Halevai (if only in Hebrew), it should be so in our country, this type of vibrant democracy where people can demonstrate in the streets. No one gets killed. No one gets hurt, and people can go out and express themselves.”
“Our Middle East: An Insider’s View” airs live every Monday on JNS TV YouTube Channel, Facebook and Twitter at 1:30 PM EST/8:30 PM IST. You can also listen to the audio version here. A Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs podcast produced by JNS.
Dan Diker is the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a foreign policy expert and the former Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress.