The recent détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran has presented a significant setback for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to isolate Tehran. For years, Netanyahu has led a vocal campaign against Iran, citing its nuclear program and support for militant groups in the region as a threat to Israel’s security.
However, the recent thaw in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran has complicated Israel’s efforts to isolate Tehran.
While it remains to be seen whether the détente will hinder Israel’s outreach to Riyadh or its planning for any eventual military strike against Iranian nuclear sites, the development is being closely monitored by analysts and policymakers in the region.
According to some experts, the Chinese-brokered deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran on Friday is causing concern for Israel.
The worry is that this move suggests that the United States is giving ground in the region, just when the Netanyahu government needs it the most.
Despite this, an Israeli official, who requested anonymity, downplayed the significance of the détente and emphasized that it should not hinder the progress of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Israel has already established close ties with the United Arab Emirates, which is also engaging with Tehran.
Israel has also continued to issue veiled threats of a potential unilateral attack on Iran if nuclear diplomacy fails.
However, any such action would depend heavily on Washington’s support. The US has been a sponsor of Israeli-Arab peace accords and a key ally of Israel.
If the US disapproves of military action, it is unlikely that Israel would proceed without its backing.
Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, has described the recent Chinese-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia as a “brilliant stroke” that will undermine American and Israeli efforts to build a regional coalition to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The deal is expected to bring Tehran in from the cold and could have a significant impact on the balance of power in the region.
In addition to these geopolitical developments, there are also unrelated strains on the Israeli-US alliance. President Joe Biden’s administration has yet to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House, and has expressed concerns about his religious-nationalist coalition.
Netanyahu is also facing significant domestic challenges, including unprecedented mass demonstrations in Israel against his proposed judicial overhaul.
The protests have included pledges by some air force reservists not to turn up for training, raising concerns about combat readiness and morale.
Amos Yadlin, a former military intelligence chief under Netanyahu, has called the Saudi-Iran détente a “wake-up call,” warning that the government’s focus on the judicial overhaul reflects a deep disconnect between Netanyahu and international geopolitical trends.
As the situation in the region continues to evolve, Israel will need to carefully navigate these complex geopolitical and domestic challenges in order to maintain its position as a key player in the Middle East.