A Saudi Scholar Lays the Religious Groundwork for Normalization with Israel

July 13 2022

Since the conclusion of the Abraham Accords, there has been speculation that Saudi Arabia—which went to war with the nascent Jewish state in 1948 and since then has not made peace—will be the next Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with Jerusalem. Y. Yehoshua explains a significant step in the kingdom’s internal discussion of the issue:

Saudi Arabia—which is essentially a religious state and regards itself as the leader of the Islamic world—will find it difficult to form official relations with Israel without first establishing the legitimacy of this move from the perspective of the sharia (Islamic law). Moreover, the Abraham Accords, signed with the kingdom’s acquiescence, have already sparked a discussion about the religious legitimacy of normalization. As part of this debate, clerics opposed to the accords stated that normalization with Israel is an act of treason against Allah and against the Prophet Mohammad who fought the Jews.

Should Saudi Arabia decide to raise the level of diplomatic representation with Israel, it will need the religious establishment to back this move and provide jurisprudential sanction for it. . . . An unusual and recent article on the religious legitimacy of diplomatic relations with Israel . . . appeared in the Saudi state daily Al-Jazirah on June 20, 2022. The article, titled “The Fiqh [Jurisprudence] Regarding al-siyasa al-shar’iyya (Sharia-Based Policy) and the State of Israel,” is by Dr. Khalid bin Mohammad al-Yousuf, a senior lecturer on international law at the Imam Mohammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh and the secretary-general of the university’s Supreme Council.

He argues that, in the modern era, there has been a significant change in the perception of the state and in the rules of the game in international relations. According to the new rules, he says, Israel is an existing reality just like any other world country, and a member of the UN. Therefore, it must be treated according to the accepted norms of the international community. Al-Yousuf calls on Saudi clerics to reexamine the sphere of international relations and formulate a new religious perception of [the subject], compatible with these new norms, that will enable the ruler of an Islamic state to employ independent judgement and form ties with Israel if he deems this to be in the interest of his country. He emphasizes that normalization with Israel will allow many Muslims to come and pray in Jerusalem and “rebuild it,” which cannot be done without maintaining ties with Israel.

The article is apparently aimed at providing jurisprudential sanction to a political move of maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel while preserving Saudi Arabia’s religious and theocratic credibility and even bolstering the religious legitimacy of its regime.

At the link below, Yehoshua translates and explicates the article.

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Abraham Accords, Islam, Saudi Arabia

Will America Invite Israel to Join Its Multinational Coalitions?

From the Korean War onward, the U.S. has rarely fought wars alone, but has instead led coalitions of various allied states. Israel stands out in that it has close military and diplomatic relations with Washington yet its forces have never been part of these coalitions—even in the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi missiles were raining down on its cities. The primary reason for its exclusion was the sensitivity of participating Arab and Muslim nations. But now that Jerusalem has diplomatic relations with several Arab countries and indeed regularly participates alongside them in U.S.-led joint military exercises, David Levy believes it may someday soon be asked to contribute to an American expedition.

It is unlikely that Israel would be expected by the U.S. to deploy the Golani [infantry] brigade or any other major army unit. Instead, Washington will likely solicit areas of IDF niche expertise. These include missile defense and special forces, two areas in which Israel is a world leader. The IDF has capabilities that it can share by providing trainers and observers. Naval and air support would also be expected as these assets are inherently deployable. Israel can also provide allies in foreign wars with intelligence and cyber-warfare support, much of which can be accomplished without the physical deployment of troops.

Jerusalem’s previous reasons for abstention from coalitions were legitimate. Since its independence, Israel has faced existential threats. Conventional Arab armies sought to eliminate the nascent state in 1948-49, 1967, and again in 1973. This danger remained ever-present until the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, which established peace between Egypt and Israel. Post-Camp David, the threats to Israel remain serious but are no longer existential. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, this would pose a new existential threat. Until then, Israel is relatively well secured.

Jerusalem’s new Arab allies would welcome its aid. Western capitals, especially Washington, should be expected to pursue Israel’s military assistance, and Jerusalem will have little choice but to acquiesce to the expeditionary expectation.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, U.S. military, U.S.-Israel relationship