Israel and Saudi Arabia reportedly in talks to strengthen ties

Bloomberg reports that the discussions are based on the security concerns both countries have regarding Iran.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israeli and Saudi officials are currently holding serious discussions about strengthening their relations, motivated by their mutual security concerns regarding Iran, Bloomberg News reported Friday.

Citing several unnamed sources “familiar” with the meeting, the media site said that the representatives convened for “exploratory talks,” and that Jerusalem is “developing closer military and intelligence ties” with Riyadh, they said.

The discussions, which the report said were backed by the United States, took place before last week’s meetings between the U.S. and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). That meeting also discussed the Iranian threat to the region, as well as its drone sales to Russia.

“We think that other regions integrating and beginning to sit at the same table with Israel is in the interest of stability and security in the region,” US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Military for the Middle East, Dana Stroul, said in the report.

Three of Bloomberg’s sources said that the talks are expected to resume in Prague, on the outskirts of the three-day Munich Security Conference that began on Friday to discuss, in the main, ongoing European and U.S. support for Ukraine in its war with Russia.

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One of the possible areas of discussion between the two formal foes could be the official international ban on Iranian weapons sales that is set to expire by the end of the year, besides its nuclear weapons program.

In his address to the Munich Conference Friday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that even despite the embargo, “Iran has become a global exporter of deadly weapons and has contacts for weapons sales in not less than 50 countries across the globe,” including drone sales to Russia and Belarus, a close Moscow ally that borders Ukraine to the north.

He asked the West to “establish an effective deterrent and punitive mechanism” to prevent these clandestine exports, as well as to “use all necessary means…to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated several times that having Riyadh join the Abraham Accords is one of the major goals of his current administration, telling CNN that establishing diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia “would end the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

While it is widely believed that Israel and the Sunni Moslem desert kingdom have had covert intelligence ties for years based on their common enemy, Shiite Iran, Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied it.  The monarchy has also publicly taken the position that it would not have relations with Israel without major progress towards the establishment of a Palestinian state.

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A political and economic union with a unified military, the GCC is led by Saudi Arabia and is headquartered in Riyadh. Its other members are Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The latter two signed normalization agreements, the Abraham Accords, with Israel in 2020, and it is assumed that the two small countries received the green light from the Saudis before doing so.