Israel said to boost its efforts for closer ties with Saudi Arabia to face down Iran

Bloomberg cites several unnamed individuals saying new government stepping up US-backed attempts to achieve greater military and intel cooperation with Riyadh

File: Benjamin Netanyahu (right) during a Likud party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 13, 2021; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left) speaks during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 14, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90; Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP)

Israel has intensified its efforts to clinch closer military and intelligence ties with Saudi Arabia under the new government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in order to face the threat posed to the region by Iran, Bloomberg News reported Friday, citing six unnamed individuals.

The report said US-backed efforts were to continue over the weekend amid the Munich Security Conference.

It did not go into details on how the new Israeli government had stepped up its overtures.

The report stressed that Riyadh is unlikely to agree to full ties with Jerusalem so long as significant progress is not made in the peace process with Palestinians, as it has stipulated in the past.

The Saudis have been widely reported to maintain clandestine ties with Jerusalem. Netanyahu himself is reported to have flown to the country in secret in 2020 to meet with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman

In January, following a meeting in Jerusalem between Netanyahu and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said the two had discussed “the next steps to deepen the Abraham Accords and widen the circle of peace, with an emphasis on a breakthrough with Saudi Arabia.”

The US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020 saw the kingdom’s neighbors — the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — establish full diplomatic ties with Israel. Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed his desire to see Saudi Arabia join the list.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in Jerusalem on January 19, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

But while the Saudis have softened toward Israel in recent years, allowing Israeli flights to use the country’s airspace, the new hardline Netanyahu government is unlikely to provide a welcoming atmosphere for any such deal.

Saudi Arabia has long stuck to the framework of a plan it proposed over two decades ago.

The 2002 proposal offers Israel fully normalized relations with all 22 members of the Arab League if Israel agrees to a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders and with a just resolution for Palestinian refugees.

Netanyahu plans to pursue a policy of increased settlement expansion in the West Bank, with right-wing parties in his coalition advocating the annexation of some of the territory.

Jacob Magid and Amy Spiro contributed to this report.

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