Israel Saudi Arabia

Israel and Saudi Arabia have publicly admitted to secret diplomatic relations. They hope to cooperate on the Iranian regional threat and on resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In a historical first, Israel and Saudi Arabia have publicly admitted to clandestine diplomatic ties. The announcement, which was delivered at a conference of the Council on Foreign Relations, was made in the context of the increasing fear of both countries that the Iranian nuclear agreement will only strengthen Iran’s disruptive role in the Middle East.

Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold, who is soon to become head of the foreign ministry, and Saudi Maj. Gen. (ret.) Anwar Eshki told the think tank that the conference was actually their fifth meeting since early 2014. The previous meetings took place in Italy, India and the Czech Republic.

“Our standing today on this stage does not mean we have resolved all the differences that our countries have shared over the years,” said Gold, “But our hope is we will be able to address them fully in the years ahead.”

Both diplomats provided an example of these differences. The Saudi general blamed Israel for not accepting the Arab Peace Initiative, though Prime Minister Netanyahu said it should be reconsidered if certain elements are removed. The Israeli ambassador, for his part, had written a book blaming Saudi Arabia for funding Palestinian terrorism during the second intifada. He indicated that Iran has since replaced Saudi Arabia in this role.

Saudi Arabia has never formally recognized Israel. The two countries, which are practically neighbors, have never had diplomatic relations. However, both are threatened by the ascendant role of Iran in the Middle East, including its funding of proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Saudi Arabia also accuses Iran of supporting Shiite insurrection in the east of the country and in Bahrain.

Gold and Eshki did not take questions after their talks.

By: Sara Abramowicz, United with Israel