Israel was not taken by surprise when Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to revive ties, a senior Israeli official told Iran International, amid criticism by the opposition.
The official who requested anonymity was accompanying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his trip to Italy on Saturday. He insisted that the Israeli government knew about the talks between Tehran and Riyadh “for a long time” and was following the process.
The official said that Saudi Arabia’s decision to re-establish diplomatic ties with Iran, severed since 2016, will not have an impact on the chances of Israeli-Saudi relations.
The Netanyahu government and President Joe Biden’s administration have been trying to expand the 2020 Abraham Accords to include Saudi Arabia, which has been holding out, making demands both on Israel and the United States.
However, since the news of the Iranian-Saudi deal broke on Friday, many commentators have seen the development as a win for China that brokered the agreement.
The Wall Street Journal in an editorial blamed Biden and the Democrats for annoying the Saudis and pushing them into China’s arms. The Journal said, “the symbolic import is hard to miss as Democrats in Washington do everything they can to harass and annoy the Saudis,” adding that getting a cold shoulder from Washington Riyadh decided to “hedge” its bets.
The Israeli official also said that in case of a decision to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, Israel “is neither dependent on anyone, nor waiting for anyone’s permission.” However, he added that Israel will be happy with US political and military support and backing from European countries.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has described the resumption of ties between Tehran and Riyadh as harmful to chances of bringing Saudi Arabia into the Abraham Accords, saying that it is a serious defeat for Netanyahu.
Netanyahu faces serious opposition at home for his domestic policies and his critics charge that because of his entanglements at home, he missed the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement.
The senior official agreed that Israel’s internal crisis impacts its confrontation with the Islamic Republic and for this reason the political row should be ended as soon as possible.
Some Israeli media argued that the resumption of diplomatic relation will not dampen Saudi Arabia’s opposition to the Shiite regime in Iran and Riyadh remain open to joining the Abraham accords.
The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported this week that Saudi Arabia is demanding concessions from the Biden administration to join the peace accords with Israel. It wants US assistance in developing a nuclear power industry and less restrictions on arms sales to the kingdom. Many see the Chinese-brokered deal with Iran as further pressure by Riyadh on both the United States and Israel.
Some Israeli media have also reported that Saudis want Israel’s help in securing their demands from Washington.
Saudis have long said that formal diplomatic relations with Israel depend on a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, though the two have been conducting business and security cooperation behind closed doors for some time. Saudi also opened its air space to Israel, in the wake of the Accords, signed in 2020.