Israeli officials are becoming increasingly comfortable at acknowledging their country’s burgeoning ties with Saudi Arabia.
This week it was Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who said in a radio interview this week that his country’s connection with the moderate Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, “helps us to block Iran”.
Then there was Gadi Eisenkot, the IDF chief of staff, who told a Saudi newspaper last week that “we are ready to exchange experiences with moderate Arab countries and to exchange intelligence to confront Iran.”
Iran is the biggest threat to the region, he said, adding that “in this matter there is complete agreement between us and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has never been our enemy. It has not fought us nor have we fought it.”
Two months ago, Gen Eisenkot was present at a meeting of military chiefs of staff hosted by the US that also included his Saudi counterpart.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir reiterated this week the official position that ties will not exist between the two states until Israel accepts the Arab Peace Initiative and solves the conflict with the Palestinians, but a growing number of former senior Saudi officials are prepared to meet with Israelis in open venues.
They included the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, who said two weeks ago that killing Jews and fighting against Israel was inappropriate for Muslims, and described Hamas as a “terror organization”.
The willingness of both countries to acknowledge their ties much more openly than before is not just a sign of how closely they are coordinating their moves, but also of their growing alarm at the rapid inroads the Iranians have been making in the region – in Yemen, Iraq and Syria.
With the Trump administration still yet to set out a clear Middle East policy, ten months since its inauguration, the Israeli-Saudi alliance is looking more like two unlikely partners clinging to each other from lack of choice – much more so than a marriage of convenience, let alone love.