Israel optimistic about Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince

Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud appears to be serious about modernising the kingdom


The Israeli security establishment is optimistic over the direction being taken by the Saudi Royal House following the news that 31-year-old Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud was elevated to the position of Crown Prince on Wednesday.

While the ambitious “MBS” has been seen for a few years now as the growing power in the kingdom, the speed of his promotion to the number two spot after King Saud has surprised even seasoned Saudi-watchers.

The announcement came after a series of appointments in which younger members of the royal household, close to bin Salman, were also promoted.

Over the last two years, Israeli intelligence has focused on assessing the young prince’s intentions and believe he is serious about modernising the kingdom and reducing its reliance on oil. He is willing to pay a significant price to carry out his 2030 vision and, as far as it is possible to gauge public opinion, it seems that the Saudi population are with him, despite the fact that they realise they will also have to pay a price in reduced subsidies. For now, MBS is the most popular figure in the kingdom.

The assessment is that the pro-American bin Salman is open also to a tacit alliance with Israel, especially when it comes to confronting Iran and Isis, but he will not favour open relations with the Jewish state as long as there is no progress on the Palestinian issue.

One of the most intriguing questions regarding his future policies is over the stance he will take towards Russia. The Kremlin, which is currently aligned with Shi’a Iran in the Syrian war, is anxious not to make itself the enemy of the much larger Sunni world. President Vladimir Putin has been making overtures to Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but bin Salman is positioning himself as the key leader of the Sunni camp. Russia will probably pursue a dual policy of engagement while discreetly trying to undermine him. The nature of his response will be a major test of his leadership capabilities.

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