Why an Israeli Journalist Was Wrong to Visit Mecca

July 26 2022

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia allowed the first ever direct flight to the kingdom from Tel Aviv, and invited a delegation of Israeli reporters to cover President Biden’s visit. One of these journalists took the opportunity to travel to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, and then circulated videos of himself there. Harold Rhode believes this “shameful” act will likely lead “Israel-Saudi relations to cool down” for the time being:

According to Islamic law, only Muslims are allowed to enter Mecca. Non-Muslims who violate this prohibition are seen as religiously contaminating the holy city, and are therefore punished severely. Whatever non-Muslims might think, Muslims do not see the world as non-Muslims do. It is therefore hard to explain in Western terms how serious this transgression is and the extent to which it will set back Israel-Saudi relations.

The Saudis do not have a free press and, like others in the Muslim world, have great difficulty accepting that Western governments cannot rein in their journalists. Even Muslims who know the West well often have difficulty understanding this.

Where does the above-mentioned Israeli-Jewish journalist who went to Mecca fit into this picture? To the best of our knowledge, he is a secular Jew who [perhaps] has little appreciation of the concept of holiness in any religion—including his own.

The Saudi rulers’ claim to fame in the Islamic world is that they protect Islam’s two holiest places—Mecca and Medina. To Muslims, it now looks as though Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was unable to do so. This shames him and Saudi Arabia, thus undermining their claim to be protecting the holy cities. That’s how Muslims view what happened. Even worse, as the videos he filmed demonstrate, [the Israeli reporter] clearly had fun sneaking into Mecca. From a Muslim perspective, he and by extension all of Israel have undermined the Saudi regime.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Journalism, 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