Saudi Arabia Should Normalize Relations with Israel—and Not Only for Strategic Reasons

April 5 2018

The Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman made a few headlines this week when, in an interview with the Atlantic, he seemed to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the Middle East. While it is no secret that Riyadh and Jerusalem have been engaging in ever-closer cooperation due to their shared concerns about the threat from Iran, MBS (as the Saudi leader is known) has not moved toward bringing these relations out into the open. Lee Smith argues that it’s high time Saudi Arabia began initiating diplomatic relations with Israel, and not only because of dovetailing geopolitical priorities:

[T]he main reason to normalize relations with the Jewish state is not strategic—rather, it’s sociological. . . . [C]riticism of anti-Semitism typically focuses on the damage that it does to Jews, but that’s only one part of the equation. The other concern is what it does to those who are afflicted by anti-Semitism, non-Jews, by turning them into stark raving lunatics who are incapable of understanding the world and thus acting in it rationally. If you believe that 1 percent of the world’s population controls global wealth, communications, and even the weather, it becomes increasingly difficult to function. When an entire society adopts this as a worldview, it’s over. “The Jews control the weather” is not a starting point from which anyone makes progress.

Consider Syria, for instance, whose rulers thought it advisable to bind competing sects and tribes together in an oppositional nationalism based on perpetual war against the Jewish state. It was nearly inevitable that at some point Syrians would turn to slaughtering each other. Iran’s anti-Semitism is dangerous for Israel, but let’s be frank—Jerusalem has a large nuclear arsenal and can take care of itself even if its superpower patron in Washington blinks. The anti-Semitism that is the signature of the Iranian leadership’s madness is much more dangerous to Iran itself—a peril further magnified by the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Thus, the Iranian threat isn’t just military but also cultural. That’s why MBS is in a rush to undo the post-1979 regional order, represented now by the obscurantist regime in Tehran that courts war not simply with Israel but with all of its neighbors, from the Persian Gulf to the eastern Mediterranean. To keep Saudi Arabia moving headlong in the other direction, namely the future, the logical move for a man who keeps shocking the system is to embrace Israel. By establishing normal relations with the Jewish state, MBS would be enshrining his vision for a normal Saudi Arabia.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israel-Arab relations, Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror