As Saudi Arabia Inches Closer to Peace with Israel, Hostility Remains

Last week, Israel approved Egypt’s transfer of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, a de-facto move toward normalization between Jerusalem and Riyadh. The Saudis took another step in this direction by opening their airspace to Israeli flights, and an Israeli journalist has reportedly visited Mecca, from which non-Muslims are generally barred. Jacob Magid, another journalist who came to Jeddah on the first-ever direct flight from Tel Aviv to the kingdom, spoke to several Saudis in the Haifa mall, located on the city’s Palestine Street:

“A Jew is a Jew, whether in Israel or Moscow,” said Sultan, a salesman at a watch kiosk, as Beyonce’s “Halo” played in the gleaming mall. . . . Aware he was speaking with a member of the Israeli press—I was one of three reporters for Israeli publications who joined the White House press corps for the Saudi leg of Biden’s Middle East trip—the salesman had no problem launching into a diatribe about how the Jews wanted to kill the prophet Mohammad and are “the enemies of Islam.”

Learning my name, Sultan admitted that he had never met a Jew before. “The Quran says it’s good that we’re all different,” Sultan clarified, in an impressive 180-degree turn from his original argument. Experts say a similar about-face will be needed if Israeli-Saudi normalization—a process Riyadh claims is not happening—is to see a warm welcoming of Israeli and Jews after decades of hostility and demonization.

Although Sultan was not alone in expressing this view, Magid encountered another position as well:

Out in the Jeddah night, my Uber driver, Ahmed, echoed a sentiment expressed by many others in the mall: that he didn’t have much of an opinion on the matter and that he trusted the Saudi government to act appropriately.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Arab anti-Semitism, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy