Israel must seek Saudi Arabia’s friendship

While we expect a whole different world under president Trump, we must also accept that the rules in the Middle East have changed and that we need a strong and stable Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu and Saudi King Salman (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu and Saudi King Salman
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Many including some Jewish writers and activists in the US have cheered the passing of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA ), which enables victims of terrorism to sue Saudi Arabia as an alleged supporter of terrorism, but if we take a closer look at the facts we will discover that anyone who wants stability in the Middle East should have opposed the law.
The first and main issue with the law is that undermining Saudi Arabia empowers Iran, and even those who claim Saudi Arabia is an Islamist state should ask themselves whether Iran is preferable.
Saudi Arabia has never been supportive of fundamentalist acts against Israel; yes, Saudi Arabia does support the Palestinian cause, with a passion, but all of its historical support has been in the form of humanitarian aid, building houses, offering Palestinians jobs in the kingdom – where two million Palestinians work without any restrictions – and even unconditional and open residency permits. At the same time, on not a single occasion have we heard of Saudi Arabia financially supporting Hamas or even the PLO . Moreover, Saudi Arabia bans all known Islamic terrorist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
What we may conclude from these facts is that Saudi Arabia actually cares for the Palestinians, and at the same time chooses not to disrupt the region.
Terrorist groups like ISIS, Muslim Brotherhood and others regularly attack Saudi Arabia, and while this in itself does not necessarily make us allies, still, to even consider undermining Saudi Arabia or attacking it either politically or in the media seems unwise.
Also, Saudi Arabia like it or not is the foundation stone of the stability of the Arab peninsula. To demonize it is to support Iran – a mistake we could all pay dearly for. We in Israel, and Jews the world over, must approach Saudi Arabia with our arms open in friendship and understanding, and not only in little meetings with former officials like former general Anwar Ishki, who has visited Israel.
No, we must look to the day we see an Israeli embassy or at least business office in Riyadh, and must mobilize all of our friends and activist to set the record straight on Saudi Arabia and the need to defend it and its image.
To those who don’t like this view, consider the alternative: Iran.
At the same time Saudis must understand Israel has rights and sacred values it is not willing to compromise; the Saudis have presented a peace initiate which we are willing to consider but only under the full acceptance that Israel will forever maintain it sovereign as a Jewish state.
Also we must expand our cooperation against our mutual enemy, Iran, given the fact that there is concrete intelligence information that Iran and Hezbollah have spread a number of terrorist sleeper cells in the Gulf states intended to foment sectarian unrest.
May this be a call to the Israeli government to seek true and open friendship with Saudi Arabia for the good of the region, Israel and also Palestinians, bearing in mind that the Saudi deputy crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud, is a very open-minded and practical man who easily accepts new ideas and is avidly seeking positive change in his country.
The author is chairman of the Kedem Forum human rights NGO.