Outflanked by UAE, Saudi Arabia remains mum on normalization deal

Twenty-four hours has passed since the Israel-UAE normalization agreement was announced by the White House, but no official comment has been issued by Saudi Arabia, which has been leaning toward more developed ties with the Jewish state in recent years.

“Analysts see the surprise UAE-Israel agreement announced on Thursday as a strategic boost for the UAE’s regional and global standing that could put it ahead of its powerful Saudi neighbor and ally, especially in critical relations with Washington,” the Reuters news agency writes.

“The move positions the UAE nicely should [Joe] Biden win [the upcoming US presidential election], as it will help smooth things over with [the US] Congress and, by doing so, leave Saudi Arabia outflanked and more exposed than ever before,” Neil Quilliam, associate fellow with Chatham House and managing director of Azure Strategy tells Reuters. “This must be the real concern for the Saudi leadership right now — and the lead calculation on how to respond to the UAE-Israel move.”

But while maybe more enticing for Gulf leaders, the idea of normalized ties with Israel is still far less popular at the ground level.

The Arabic social media hashtag “Gulfis_Against_Normalization” was trending in third place in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, Reuters reports.