The mounting tension between Israel and Iran, which came to a head with Iran’s firing of missiles at Israel from Syrian territory and Israel’s counterattack on Iranian sites in that country, sparked a debate in Saudi Arabia regarding which side Saudis should support. Many Saudi intellectuals declared that, in case of a military confrontation between Iran and Israel, they would certainly support Israel, for Iran is the one threatening Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s military involvement in the region—its presence in Yemen and its support of the Houthi rebels there, who are fighting Saudi Arabia and firing rockets at its cities, as well as its military presence in Syria and Iraq, and its involvement in Lebanon—are perceived by Saudis as an existential threat to their country. Israel, on the other hand, is not perceived as a threat to Saudi Arabia, but as a potential ally in the struggle against Iran.

Against this backdrop, Saudi intellectuals, journalists and writers have been increasingly expressing open support for Israel, approving of its policy towards Iran, and even calling to normalize relations and make peace with it. This, they said, could put a stop to Iran’s hostile policies since the perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict serves Iran’s expansionist ambitions.

In some cases, the Saudi intellectuals and journalists also expressed support for Israel in matters pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially to the clashes on the Gaza border as part of the “Great Return March” campaign. Some of them blamed the events on Hamas and on Iran, which they said were promoting their interests at the expense of the children of Gaza.

It should be noted that this is not the first time such voices are heard in Saudi Arabia. In June 2017, Musa’id Al-’Asimi, who writes for Al-Riyadh, called on the Arabs to stop regarding Israel as an enemy state and focus instead on the “real enemy”—Iran.[1] In addition, over the past year there have been increasing reports on rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and on Saudi involvement in the formulation of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” for resolving the Palestinian problem, in a manner favoring Israel at the expense of the Palestinians.

It should also be mentioned that, alongside the clear trend of articles supporting Israel, the Saudi media continues to publish many articles that criticize it.

The full article can be read at MEMRI here.