Pro-Hezbollah paper alleges Saudis have made plans for ties with Israel

Al Akhbar publishes supposed ‘secret document’ from Riyadh looking to normalize relations with Jewish state to unite against Iran; undated document’s authenticity in question

Dov Lieber is a former Times of Israel Arab affairs correspondent.

Saudi King Salman, left, speaks with his Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as they wait for Gulf Arab leaders ahead of the opening of a Gulf Cooperation Council summit, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in May 2012. (AP/Hassan Ammar)
Saudi King Salman, left, speaks with his Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as they wait for Gulf Arab leaders ahead of the opening of a Gulf Cooperation Council summit, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in May 2012. (AP/Hassan Ammar)

A Lebanese paper closely aligned with the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah on Tuesday published an alleged “secret document” that purports to show the Saudis are willing to normalize relations with Israel as part of a US-led Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and unite the region against Iran.

The alleged document, published by the Al Akhbar daily, is an undated letter purportedly from the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir to the crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, explaining why it’s in the kingdom’s interest to normalize relations with Israel.

There was no independent confirmation of the letter.

While the alleged document’s publication received a fair amount of coverage in the Israeli press, the Arab press, excluding Lebanon, had mostly not covered the story as of Tuesday afternoon.

The publication of the “secret letter” by a pro-Hezbollah outlet comes at a time of rapidly rising tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which casts doubt on its authenticity.

Israel’s Channel 10 news cited unnamed “Arab sources” who said the alleged letter was psychological warfare by Iran aimed at smearing Saudi Arabia in the media.

 “I have the honor to submit to you the draft of the plan to establish relations between the kingdom and the State of Israel, based on the strategic partnership agreement with the United States of America, which was discussed with the secretary of state of the United States of America,” the alleged letter from the foreign minister to the crown prince opens.

(In May, after a visit from US President Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia, the two sides agreed to form a new strategic partnership, the White House said.)

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with then Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman during a bilateral meeting, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The purported letter goes on to say that a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel has risks for the kingdom due to the strength of the Palestinian cause among Muslims. While normalization will at first be rejected by Arabs, the text continues, Israeli technological and economic prowess will help usher in a more prosperous era for the region.

“The kingdom will not take this risk unless it felt the United States has taken a sincere approach to Iran, which is destabilizing the region by sponsoring terrorism,” the text says.

The letter adds that Saudi Arabia would normalize relations with Israel under two conditions. First, either the kingdom builds up nuclear weapons similar to Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal, or Israel gives up its alleged nukes.

Second, the letter says, the Saudis, with the help of the US, would solve the Palestinian issue, including the two most difficult final status issues, the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Regarding Jerusalem, which Israel sees as its capital while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for a future state, the Saudis propose the ancient city be put under international control and be administered by the United Nations, according to the letter.

US President Donald Trump (C-L) and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (C-R) arrive for the Arabic Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh on May 21, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)

As for the Palestinian refugee issue, the letter says the Saudis would be willing to help the estimated five million Palestinian refugees worldwide to settle in their host countries, rather than bringing them back to Israel.

Israel and the US would then be expected to help Saudi Arabia confront Iran’s policies in the region and help foil the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has frequently boasted of under-the-table relations with regional neighbors, but the country does not currently have diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia.

Since the start of November, Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of arming rebels in Yemen with ballistic missiles aimed at Riyadh, and has said that Lebanon declared war on the kingdom through Iran’s proxy Hezbollah. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warned that Iranian “might” would fend off any challenge.

An Iranian man holds a poster bearing images of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salam during a parade marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / STRINGER)

Lebanon has been caught in the last two weeks in a political battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for influence over the country.

Last week, Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri turned up in Riyadh, appearing on Saudi TV to announce his resignation. Hariri claimed he was the target of a Hezbollah assassination plot.

On Sunday night, Hariri gave his first TV interview, attacking Iran and its Hezbollah proxy and claiming that he would return to Lebanon in the coming days to formally submit his resignation to Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

In April, Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard accused the Lebanese paper al Akhbar of fabricating an entire conversation, complete with direct quotations from the alleged meeting, between her and US President Donald Trump.

Al Akhbar reported Trump supposedly told Gabbard to bring Syrian President Bashar Assad a message.

However, Gabbard said she had met with Assad in January without Trump’s knowledge, the Huffington Post reported.

Most Popular
read more: