Patience Is the Key to Bringing Saudi Arabia into the Abraham Accords

Feb. 20 2023

There is little doubt that Riyadh and Jerusalem have been strengthening their relationship behind the scenes for many years, and 2022 and 2023 saw much speculation in the Israeli press about the possibility of diplomatic normalization. While Eran Lerman is sanguine about the prospects in the long run, he also cautions against inflated expectations:

Israel must take into account that the diplomatic, political (i.e., intra-dynastic), and social dynamics in the Saudi kingdom are highly complex—and not easy to discern for observers from the outside or even from within. As the Saudis themselves are ready to admit, it will not be easy to remove overnight the legacy of decades of the Saudi population being fed a poisonous flow of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement. [Excessive] Israeli pressure—let alone dragging the issue down into the stormy Israeli partisan political arena—would do more harm than good. . . . The Arab saying, al-‘ajalah min al-shaytan—haste is from the devil—is an excellent guide to the insights necessary for conducting Israeli policy toward the Saudis at present.

It is clear to the Saudis, as well as to the Abraham Accords nations and the Biden administration, that the present Israeli government—like its predecessor—cannot find a zone of any possible agreement with Palestinian demands in the foreseeable future. However, unlike the UAE, the Saudis are not ready to take the issue off the table; and the Palestinians welcomed their position.

Expectations in Israel should therefore be modified. Even slow and measured progress with the Saudis could run into severe difficulties if Israel comes to be perceived as moving from “conflict management” toward a decisive situational transformation. . . . Caution and sound judgment are needed on issues that may have a bearing on the prospects for (measured) progress with the Saudis—and equally important, on the ability to persuade Washington to lend a hand in this effort.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel diplomacy, Saudi Arabia

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan