Did Hamas Kill the Possibility of Saudi-Israeli Normalization? Hardly

Carefully watching the growing tensions between Iran and the U.S. are Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. Since October 7, there has been much speculation that the Israeli counterattack on Hamas would strain Jerusalem’s still-new relations with the former two countries, and render impossible the forging of friendly relations with the last—which, on October 6, seemed very much on the horizon. Ilan Zalayat and Yoel Guzansky, however, conclude that these worries are overstated. In fact, much as Evelyn Gordon wrote in Mosaic, the Gulf states are hoping Israel succeeds in eliminating Hamas:

Abu Dhabi in particular is worried about any achievement linked to Hamas’s ideological identification with the Muslim Brotherhood. In a statement at the United Nations, Reem al-Hashimy, the United Arab Emirates Minister of International Cooperation, described the Hamas attacks as “barbaric and cruel.” The Foreign Ministry in Abu Dhabi blamed Hamas exclusively for the escalation and said that it was “appalled” that Israeli civilians were abducted as hostages.

[W]hile Saudi Arabia is highly critical of Israel, it has also not spared Hamas. For example, Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former head of Saudi intelligence, said that the Hamas atrocities opposed the principles of Islam and were not “heroic.” In Saudi-controlled media outlets, the dominant line is to accuse Iran of being behind the barbaric Hamas attacks and to describe the Palestinians as victims of the Islamic Republic—in sharp contrast to Riyadh itself, which has sought to improve the lives of the Palestinian people by means of normalization talks.

In addition, while it is impossible to imagine Israel and Saudi Arabia moving any closer to normalization while the war continues, Riyadh has left the door to normalization open. . . . Saudi Arabia and the UAE see how Iran has no problem using its proxies and how the United States is mustering its military force to defend Israel. These developments could encourage it to move closer to Israel and the U.S.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Gaza War 2023, Israel diplomacy, 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