Tag Archives: Arab

Saudi Arabia: Iran or Israel

Analysis: Despite shared interests, there is little chance for normalization in Saudi-Israeli relations

Dr. Yaron Friedman

Abdul Aziz Qassim, a Saudi commentator at the al-Watan newspaper, wrote the following in an editorial last week: “The most sensitive question is being asked: Should the Sunni countries welcome an Israeli attack on Shiite Iran, as Iran remains their No. 1 enemy in the region? Yet we must not ignore our years-long hatred for this bad little country (referring to Israel), and our stance regarding the attitude towards Israel is clear: It is the eternal enemy of the region the same way Iran is the region’s biggest danger.”

 Only Arabs left without nukes

Saudi commentators and reporters have recently expressed their despair over the Iranian-American agreement reached recently, which allegedly gives Iran legitimacy to enrich uranium. The Saudis have a bad feeling that in the near future the Arab world will find itself between two nuclear countries, Iran and Israel, while the Arabs are left without nuclear capabilities.

Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leader of the Arab world, an island of stability and economic power in the Arab world, which has weakened and is bleeding following the damages of the Arab Spring. It is also considered today the leader of the moderate Sunni world, and supports the secular Sunni forces – the Syrian rebel organization, the Free Syrian Army, and the Egyptian army fighting against the Muslim Brotherhood.


Saudi Arabia is anxiously monitoring the split within the Sunni forces, like the war between al-Qaeda groups in Syria and the Free Syrian Army and the tensions between Turkey and Egypt over Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood.


Shared interests, but… King Abdullah and Netanyahu (Photos: EPA, AP)
Shared interests, but… King Abdullah and Netanyahu (Photos: EPA, AP)


Riyadh feels abandoned by Washington. John Kerry and Saudi counterpart Saud al-Faisal (Photo: AP)
Riyadh feels abandoned by Washington. John Kerry and Saudi counterpart Saud al-Faisal (Photo: AP)


Saudi leaders are also losing sleep over the success of the Syrian regime’s army, with the help of Hezbollah, in taking over most of western Syria. Iran’s long arms are evident in Syria and Iraq, where a religious war is taking place between Sunnis and Shiites, and these two countries are on the verge of a split between east and west.


In Bahrain too the Iranian regime continues to incite the Shiite majority against the Sunni minority rule. The Saudis are now worried that lifting sanctions on Iran in the future will allow it to reinforce its support for Shiite groups in all of these arenas and deepen the Fitna – the religious war between Sunnis and Shiites.


Are we missing a historical opportunity?

The interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East have never been so close: They are both concerned over Iran’s nuclearization, they both support General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi‘s war against the Islamists in Egypt, they are both interested in seeing Hezbollah fail in Syria, they both have an interest in weakening al-Qaeda and strengthening the moderate Sunni groups in Syria, and they are both disappointed with the United States’ policy and feel it has abandoned them all alone in the region.


Saudi Arabia turned to Israel in 2002 through the Arab League proposal for comprehensive peace in the Middle East, in exchange for its return to the 1967 borders. Israel never officially accepted the proposal, although senior politicians like Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres have expressed a positive attitude towards it.


Recently there have been many reports in the Arab press about secret cooperation between Israel and the Saudi Arabia. But these reports should be read cautiously as they usually appear in newspapers opposing Saudi Arabia. According to those sources, the meetings are being held in European countries. The content of these meetings in regards to the Iranian issue is unclear.


Saudi Arabia's policy is anti-Shiite as it is anti-Israeli (Photo: Reuters)
Saudi Arabia’s policy is anti-Shiite as it is anti-Israeli (Photo: Reuters)


There is a claim that Saudi and Israeli intelligence officials are meeting in Jordan to coordinate cooperation on the Syrian issue. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad recently accused Saudi Arabia of cooperating with Israel against the Syrian regime. He said there was an “operations room” in Jordan where US, Saudi and Israeli intelligence officials were allegedly coordinating actions of the Syrian opposition.


The US created a serious crisis when it gave up on striking in Syria and reached an agreement with Iran, but it also opens new opportunities, if Saudi and Israeli leaders are wise enough to take advantage of them. Several optimistic Saudi commentators have even raised an interesting assumption that the Americans have no real intention of reconciling with Iran and that the current nuclear agreement for freezing some of the sanctions, which is valid for only six months, is just aimed at guaranteeing that Iran will support the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria.


Nonetheless, most Saudi commentators see the American policy as real treason against the kingdom and the Sunni world. One of them did a good job in describing the Saudis’ feelings when he wrote that “the Great Satan (the US in Iran’s eyes) is marrying the axis of evil (Iran in the eyes of the US) and the close friend (Saudi Arabia for the US) has not been invited to the wedding.”


The Saudis have warned that US that it’s betting on the wrong horse as the Sunnis are the majority in the Middle East and the Shiites are a minority (20% of Muslims) and because there is more Sunni oil than the oil in the Shiite areas.


Iranian President Rohani. 'Smile offensive' initiator in Gulf too (Photo: Reuters)
Iranian President Rohani. ‘Smile offensive’ initiator in Gulf too (Photo: Reuters)


Senior Saudi officials have spoken against Iran very similarly to Israel’s leaders: “We won’t sit idle if Iran has a nuclear weapon,” “As far as we are concerned, all options are on the table.” In addition, there has been open criticism about the Iranian propaganda and Saudi journalists have written that Iran has been promising to liberate Palestine for more than 30 years without doing anything, and that its vision is not uniting the Muslims but renewing the great Shiite Safavid Empire of the 16th century by turning into a nuclear country.


Second option: Joining winners

Saudi Arabia is facing a very difficult dilemma: If it draws closer to Israel it will betray the Palestinian issue, and if it joins Iran it will betray the Syrian opposition. The Wahhabi ideology, on the foundations of which the kingdom was established, is mainly anti-Shiite as it is anti-Israeli. The barriers of hatred for both countries are almost unbridgeable. The Saudi propaganda and education in the country are filled with the same amount of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish and anti-Shiite content.


But there are elementary differences between Saudi-Israeli ties and Saudi-Iranian ties on the religious and diplomatic levels: Jews are not allowed to visit the kingdom, and according to Islam they are banned entry to the area of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.


Millions of Shiites, on the other hand, are permitted to make pilgrimages to the holy places, including many Iranians. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s allies in the Gulf area are pressuring it to move closer to Iran. The Sultanate of Oman is the country which mediated between Iran and the US, Qatar and Kuwait have good relations in Iran, and the relations between the United Arab Emirates and Iran have been warming up recently. Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE’s foreign minister, even visited Tehran about a week ago.


Iranian President Hassan Rohani is now initiating a “smile offensive” in the Gulf area. He sent his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a round of visits to all the Gulf emirates, and the latter expressed his hope to visit Saudi Arabia as well in the near future. The only emirate refusing to draw closer to Iran is Bahrain, which is accusing Tehran of the Shiite protest in the country.


Iran is only country which can thwart nuclear agreement. Ashton and Zarif (Photo: AFP)
Iran is only country which can thwart nuclear agreement. Ashton and Zarif (Photo: AFP)


Iran has called on Saudi Arabia to turn over a new leaf the relations between the two countries, and has repeated its claim that the development of Iranian nukes is exclusively for civilian purposes and that Saudi Arabia’s fears are baseless. It appears, therefore, that the option of talking to Iran is easier than the almost utopian option of moving closer to Israel. Iranian and Saudi representatives have already sat together in conferences of the Islamic countries and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).


Despite the claims that the Saudi kingdom is holding secret ties with Israel, as Jordan did with Israel in the 50 years before the countries signed a peace agreement, there is no real proof of that. Iran and Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, have exchanged ambassadors and formally have normal diplomatic relations.


Saudi Arabia has expressed its hope in the past that the conflict with Iran would be settled in a diplomatic manner, but has never suggested talking directly to Israel. Therefore, there is a higher probability that Saudi Arabia will favor the Iranian option over the Israeli one. That way it will be able to fall into line with the US and maintain proper relations with the Americans, which the kingdom cannot afford to give up.


The expected result of Tehran’s “smile offensive” will be a Saudi-Iranian dialogue which will generate a rare attempt for a Sunni-Shiite rapprochement. If and when such talks are held, there is no doubt that they will focus on the Syrian issue and that there will be an attempt to create a compromise supported by the two countries in the second Geneva convention. Such a dialogue will bring the two extremities of the Muslim world closer and push Israel further away from any attempt to reconcile with the Muslim world.


The Iranians will go on insisting on enriching uranium, and on the Iranian streets people will continue chanting proudly, “Death to America.” The only one who can thwart the agreements on freezing the sanctions is Iran itself, as sooner or later the Americans and Europeans will realize that Tehran has no real intention of halting its race towards a nuclear bomb and hegemony in the Middle East.


Dr. Yaron Friedman, Ynet’s commentator on the Arab world, is a graduate of the Sorbonne. He teaches Arabic and lectures about Islam at the Technion, at Beit Hagefen and at the Galilee Academic College. His book, “The Nusayri Alawis: An Introduction to the Religion, History and Identity of the Leading Minority in Syria,” was published in 2010 by Brill-Leiden





How Israel Can Stop Losing the Propaganda War

There is a way to fight the good fight for Israel’s rights and point of view. It is not happening.

by Ted Belman

During the UN World Conference in Durban in 2001, large numbers of NGOs organized a parallel NGO Forum which produced what is known as “The NGO Declaration.”

NGO Monitor reported,

“[It] was written in highly politicized language and reflected a concerted effort to undermine Israel. Article 164 states targeted victims of Israel’s brand of apartheid and ethnic cleansing methods have been in particular children, women and refugees. Article 425 announces a policy of complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state…the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel. Furthermore, Article 426 talks of condemnation of those states who are supporting, aiding and abetting the Israeli apartheid state and its perpetration of racist crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing, acts of genocide.”

As a result, thousands of NGO’s took this resolution to heart and began devoting their efforts to demonize, deligitimate and isolate Israel. The five largest of these have a combined budget of about $1 billion and spend a considerable portion of it effecting the attack on Israel. The NGO’s participating number in the thousands.  They have great influence over the media, the UN, US an EU.  They are financed by George Soros, the EU  and Saudia Arabia, inter alia, all of whom influence their activities and support The NGO Declaration.

If that weren’t enough, the United Nations consistently singles out Israel for attack.

Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch, reported:

“Anti-Israel bias pervades the U.N. system. In 2012, its General Assembly adopted 22 resolutions against Israel– compared to four against the rest of the world.

“The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), located in Geneva, has a standing agenda item against Israel. It is the only country specifically targeted at every meeting. Not even major human rights abusers like China, Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria or Zimbabwe are subjected to such treatment.”

“The UNHRC adopts more resolutions condemning Israel than it does for the rest of the world combined. In its March 2013 session, there were six politicized resolutions against Israel – and only four against all other countries. [..]

“Furthermore, Israel is also the object of more emergency sessions than any other country in the world.”

To this can be added the combined  voices of 57 Islamic countries.

Is it any wonder that Israel is losing the propaganda war?

This relentless attack is compounded by the fact that Israel is not fighting back, not really.

Prof Martin Sherman, the Government’s biggest critic, calls their lack of action, a Dereliction of Duty . In his article “If I were Prime Minister.” he makes this case in the strongest terms and writes that he would, “dramatically increase the budget allocation for diplomatic warfare – for promoting Israel’s case abroad, repudiating the accusations of its adversaries and repulsing assaults on its legitimacy.”

And by “dramatically,” he meant up to $1 billion which he wrote is in the neighbourhood of what is allocated to an individual defense system.

There are thousands of left wing NGO’s, academics and journalist who make the case against Israel in factual terms by distorting the facts and in emotional terms by weeping for the “blameless” Palestinian Arabs. Where is Israel in this debate? She is passive and silent for the most part.

Sure Netanyahu talks about our historical connection to the land but the world thinks this is no excuse for displacing or ill-treating the “Palestinians”. This cut  muster 100 years ago when all states were nation states and the Arabs were not seen as being entitled to another Arab state. Today, the Arabs in Judea and Samaria, and those that fled it during the various wars, are seen as a nation entitled to self-determination just as the Jews were seen as a nation entitled to self-determination a hundred years ago.

But there is one big difference today.  The West is now against nation states such as Israel, and hypocritically makes an exception for the Palestinian Arabs.

Netanyahu rejects negotiations based on ’67 lines with minor swaps and rejects pre-conditions. His objections are too passive and defensive and despite them he enters negotiations anyway. As a result, achieving peace has become synonymous with accepting ’67 lines with swaps. If Israel continues to reject this deal, the Palestinians will get lots of traction for their argument that Israel doesn’t want peace. The world ignores whether such a solution will bring real peace just as they ignore whether the recent Geneva Agreement on a deal with Iran will bring peace.

Making peace has become synonymous with making deals, even bad ones.

Netanyahu has been lauded, except by Obama, for vociferously making the case that the Geneva Agreement is a bad deal, if any deal at all, and will bring war, not peace. He should similarly make the case against a two state solution based on ’67 lines. He should similarly argue it will bring war not peace.

Furthermore, he should be arguing that Judea and Samaria, the “West Bank”, are not Palestinian Arab lands and never have been, and are not occupied. This argument should be made whenever any Government representative or influential person, describes the land as “occupied Palestinian land”. Such a statement should never go unopposed.

The land is not Palestinian Arab land because these lands were promised to the Jewish people by the British government in 1917 (Balfour Declaration) for close settlement and as the Jewish National Home. This promise was made legally binding by the San Remo Resolution of 1919 and this legality was enshrined in the Palestine Mandate whose provisions are binding today. The creation of Israel in 1948, pursuant to the UNGA Partition Plan, on part of these lands, in no way waived the right of the Jews to the rest of the land. Throughout the Mandate period the Jews were referred to as Palestinians and the Arabs as Arabs.

The Anglo-American Convention on Palestine of 1924 — ratified by the US Senate, signed by the President — made USA effectively a signatory to the Mandate, and the Mandate is (like all other ratified US treaties) a part of USA domestic law.

A long-settled practice, known colloquially in international jurisprudence as the Acquired Rights Doctrine, and codified in law in 1969 as an integral part of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, provides (inter alia) that articulated rights & duties within treaties, having themselves no statute of limitations, do NOT, as a matter of course, ‘expire’ with their original incorporating instruments [Art 70 (1)b].

The late Howard Grief, author of the definitive “The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law” published in 2008, prepared a petition to the US House of Representatives and US Senate “For the Reaffirmation of Jewish Legal Rights To the Land of Israel and Former Mandated Palestine Previously Assented to by the United States in 1922 and 1924″. This petition should be filed with them in the not too distant future.

To make the case that they are not occupied, Israel must embrace the Levy Report which concluded that the Fourth Geneva Convention (FGC) does not apply to these lands. The claim that they are occupied is based entirely on this convention. That Report was the product of a commission appointed by PM Netyanyahu, to study the matter, headed by Edmund Levy, a retired Israeli Supreme Court Judge and two eminent Israeli international lawyers.  The legal arguments in the report make a very strong case.

The most common claim and the most damaging to Israel’s reputation, made by Israel’s critics, is that the settlements are illegal under international law. This is a lie. For the most part, this lie also goes unchallenged by Israel. It is based on an erroneous interpretation of the FGC and the faulty assumption that the FGC applies to Judea and Samaria. The US recognizes these arguments and does not label the settlements as “illegal” but merely as “illegitimate”.  The US policy is not based on the legal status of the settlements but on their lack of “advisability”, as they put it.  The US wants to keep the land Judenrein so that it can be given to the “Palestinians” whether entitled or not.

The US policy throughout the period of Israel’s existence has been to curry favour with the Arabs.  The US deviated from this policy in two instances.

She voted in favour of UNSC Res. 242, after the ’67 War. This resolution permitted Israel to remain in occupation until she had secure and recognized borders and to retain some of the land. The Arabs totally rejected this resolution at their Khartoum Conference in ‘68 where they decided on a policy of “no recognition, no negotiations and no peace”.  Then, as early as 1970, the US, under Pres Nixon, tabled the Rogers Plan, which called for full withdrawal in line with Arab demands. And that policy remains in force today. Effectively, the US is going against Res 242 which they helped draft and which they voted for.

Pres. George Bush issued a letter to PM Sharon in 2004 to support his disengagement plans from Gaza, and in which he supported Israel’s claim to the settlement blocs, but Pres. Obama rejected the letter as non-binding.

The US is not open to rational arguments against their policy because it is based on one motivation, namely, to give the Arabs what they want. Similarly they are not open to rational arguments regarding the Geneva Agreement because they want to curry favour with the Iranians rather than to fight with them. The same motivation applies to the Europeans.

For the same reason, the European countries and to lesser extent the US accept the lies and propaganda of the left and repeat it as truth, because it serves their purpose.

Israel must be steadfast in asserting the truth and her rights. She must do so at every opportunity


So exactly how did Yasser Arafat get so rich?

THE usual suspects are making a fuss since it was discovered after an exhumation that Palestinian terrorist leader Yasser Arafat might have been poisoned with polonium and the finger might be pointed at Israel.



I have seen acres of breast-beating journalism about the Palestinian misery but never an examination into where all the donated money has gone over the years. For this is certain: Arab donors and a generous non-Arab world have donated many billions to the Palestinian cause.

Take the Gaza strip. It is a bloc of land 25 miles long and six miles wide on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.

Its northern and eastern borders are Israel, its 11-mile southern border is Egypt and its western border the glittering Med. Over the years since the founding of Israel in 1948 literally billions of pounds have been donated to help its people have a decent life.

If it had been invested shrewdly and well Gaza today could be a mini-Monaco. It could have a deepwater freight port, a flourishing fishing port and a leisure harbour crammed with the yachts of wealthy visitors. It could have resort hotels on the sea and farms, ranches and orchards in the hinterland producing nutritious food.

It has nothing of these. It is a failed state of poverty, misery and violence. So what happened to all that money? Well, a lot went on guns, explosives for bombs and material to build rockets to launch at Israel. But the bulk has certainly suffered the fate of most wealth in that neck of the woods. It has simply been embezzled, not by Israelis but by Palestinians and above all by their leadership cadres.

Gaza, Arafat, Yasser, Palestine, leader, rich, violence, money, SuhaYasser with Suha Arafat who lived a life of luxury at the time of their marriage [GETTY]

Yasser Arafat was the virtually unchallenged Palestinian leader for many years. He never had a visible salary above his modest earnings from the Palestinian government in his West Bank fiefdom.

Yet in his dotage he was strongly rumoured to be worth many hundreds of millions of pounds. His wife Suha lived in luxury in a five-star Paris hotel. As the Americans say: go figure.

It is perfectly feasible that after leading his people to failure and poverty even his colleagues had had enough and slipped him a toxic cocktail.

The donations continue to flow in… and disappear.

Gaza, Arafat, Yasser, Palestine, leader, rich, violence, money, Suha