Analysis: Why Egypt and Saudi Arabia now advocate ties with Israel

Egypt’s president and the Saudi crown prince have reportedly been working to convince the Arab world to establish trade ties with Israel.

By Daniel Krygier, World Israel News

The U.K.-based Arab paper Al-Arabi Al-Jadid reports that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are encouraging the Arab world to resolve political differences with Israel and establish commercial ties with the Jewish state.

Why is that quiet diplomatic revolution happening now and what does it mean for Arab-Israeli relations?

While Israel enjoys a cold peace with Egypt, there are still no official diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. However, under the new Egyptian and Saudi leaderships, cooperation with the Jewish state has increased dramatically, although much of it remains unofficial.

Smaller Arab states like Oman have also joined the Sunni Arab embrace of Israel.

There are several reasons behind the Sunni Arab world’s warmer attitude toward Israel. First, the Arab world joins Israel in viewing the Shiite Ayatollah regime in Iran as the greatest strategic threat in the region.

Ironically, while former President Obama’s  failed to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, his Iran deal brought the Sunni Arab world closer to Jerusalem.

President Trump’s Middle East peace plan is expected to be unveiled in the not-too-distant future. While the details of this plan are still officially unknown, it will likely pressure both Jerusalem and Ramallah to make concessions for peace.

While Israel is no stranger to painful concessions, President Trump’s predecessors refrained from sufficiently pressuring Ramallah to come to terms with the reality of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Instead, Arafat and his successor Abbas were allowed to play a double game where they talked “peace” to the West while continuing to advocate war against the Jewish state among their own.

Under President Trump, Ramallah has already witnessed the move of the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital, the closure of the PLO’s Washington office and an end to U.S. funding of the terrorist-sponsoring UNWRA agency.

Sensing that there is a new political reality in the White House, Egypt and Saudi Arabia seek to maintain good relations with the Trump administration. The Saudis, especially, after the controversial Khashoggi affair, want to be perceived as a voice of moderation and peace. By encouraging ties with Israel, Riyadh hopes to salvage its deteriorating relations with Washington.

The Middle East region has undergone tremendous changes since the failed Arab Spring. In the past, the conflict between Israel and PLO was used by the Arab world as a welcome distraction from its own self-inflicted socio-economic problems and political crises.

However, this tactic no longer works. An increasing number of young, educated Arabs hold their leaders accountable and demand that their regimes focus on addressing the harsh living conditions in much of the Arab world.

Under the leadership of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the Sunni Arab world is increasingly adopting a pragmatic view of Israel and the world. The Jewish state is seen as the only regional power that can effectively stop Iran’s aggressive expansion.

What’s more, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are eager to modernize their stagnant economies. Trade and cooperation with the technologically savvy first-world Israel is seen as an important step towards developing their economies.

They recognize that in an era where knowledge and technological expertise are more valued than oil, Israel, a start-up powerhouse, has become too important to boycott.