Saudi Arabia Is Moving toward Peace with Israel, but Taking Its Time

Aug. 16 2022

President Biden’s visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia last month revived speculation about the possibility of normalization between the two countries, and in fact coincided with important steps in that direction: the opening of Saudi airspace to Israeli planes, the arrival of Israeli journalists in Jeddah directly from Tel Aviv, and the de-facto cooperation over the status of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir. Yet, for those expecting a major announcement about Riyadh joining the Abraham Accords, the result was disappointment. Outlining several factors restraining the kingdom from establishing full diplomatic ties with Israel, Yoel Guzansky suggests what is happening amounts to a “creeping normalization.”

The conclusion drawn from the process so far that led to the Abraham Accords is that given suitable incentive and pressure, the Gulf countries could take steps that deviate from the Arab consensus and from their positions on the Palestinian issue. Therefore, it is possible that Riyadh will advance its relations with Israel regardless of progress on the Israel-Palestinian channel but rather in relation to compensation that it will receive from the United States. And indeed, relations between Washington and Riyadh—and even more so American attention to, and American leadership of, normalization in the Middle East—are of decisive importance.

If the Saudi leadership estimates that rapprochement with Israel will help it strengthen its relations with the United States, improve [its unflattering] image [in the eyes of most Americans], and earn economic and political dividends, it could take another step toward Israel.

The continuation and expansion of the existing normalization agreements are important to the connection between Jerusalem and Saudi Arabia, in part because they are meant to grant legitimacy to their subsequent expansion. . . . A push to advance and highlight the relations and certainly making them an internal Israeli political issue, as occurred surrounding President Biden’s visit to the Middle East, will create unrealistic expectations, increase pressure on the Saudis, and undermine the process.

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Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam