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Friday, June 30, 2017



From Albawaba:
“Saudis support naturalization” with Israel. This, the surprising hashtag that has been trending on Twitter in the Gulf state over the last few days.

Saudi Arabia currently has no diplomatic ties with Israel, which it does not recognize, and anti-Israeli sentiment has typically been widespread in the kingdom.

This much is evident from the majority of the responses to the hashtag, which directed vitriol towards any such naturalization-backing Saudis.

Still, and rather unexpectedly, some did use the tag to express their backing for dialogue and the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two Middle Eastern states. [For example]

There is no shame in peace, dialogue and agreement. In the end, it is what all peoples and nations want and is the best choice for all.

They did so despite critics of government policy in the Gulf state risking hefty prison sentences. That in itself is a hint at a softening of attitudes with regards to Israel in Saudi Arabia, where there is evidence to suggest a potential shift in government policy towards Tel Aviv.
The hashtag was not that popular, but the underlying sea change in Saudi attitudes towards Israel is evident.
John R. Bradley wrote in The Spectator that Trump’s Middle East trip had highlighted his “championing” of a “new geopolitical reality”.
In this new reality, Bradley suggested, Saudi policy may be refocused to consider “Iran, not Israel [...as its] regional enemy.”
His evidence? He points to Israeli Channel 2’s interview earlier this month with a Saudi political analyst in Jeddah, which received no backlash from the authorities, indicating, he suggests, tacit Saudi approval.
Bradley goes further, describing the interview as “just the opening salvo of an orchestrated, pro-Israel propaganda campaign.”
This “campaign”, according to Bradley, has so far witnessed the publishing of an “unprecedented” column in government-monitored Saudi daily which suggested that “there was no reason for Arabs to ‘unjustifiably demonise’” Israel.
Elsewhere, The Wall Street Journal has also reported a secret Saudi-Israeli deal to support Syrian rebels, while The Times has suggested that the two nations are engaged in talks over potential economic ties, a claim denied by Riyadh. 
Iran and its allies are very worried about this. Al Manar, a Hezbollah newspaper, this week disparaged Saudi Arabia by pointing out that one of their Grand Muftis, when asked about whether Arabs are allowed to make peace with Israel in the 1990s, issued a fatwa  that it was OK depending on the specifics and if it would benefit the Arab country. (And if the Jews are too powerful to be defeated militarily.)

The Iranians now realize that the old playbook of  using "Zionist" as an insult to bully people to do what you want no longer works. Iran is trying to save face by saying that the Saudis have been pro-Israel for decades and there is nothing new in their Zionist position - implying that Iranian policies are not the reason for the Saudi softening of its attitude towards Israel.

(h/t Yoel, Ibn Boutros)



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