The Tel-Aviv based Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) published a diplomatic analysis on Monday studying how future relations between the US and Saudi Arabia could impact Israel, and what kind of policies the Israeli administration should follow.
According to the short report, the institute recommends that the government of Israel maintain close relations with Riyadh despite the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The analysis comes from Eldad Shavit and Yoel Guzansky, the former an IDF intelligence officer, and the latter a former member of the National Security Council in the Prime Minister's Office of Israel, where he served under three prime ministers.
The trail of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd this year, leads to the Crown Prince MBS - according to the CIA, US State Department and several US senators.
Nevertheless, the INSS suggest warns that Israel should not stand too close to the crown prince so as not to “harm its own moral image.”
Furthermore, the authors are of the opinion that the kingdom has an important role to play in creating a regional balance of power that furthers Israel's interests.
“Israel, which has a basic interest in maintaining the stability of the kingdom, should understand that increasing external pressure on the kingdom at this time could undermine Saudi Arabia’s stability.”
Therefore, it is necessary to undermine the pressure - or at least not contribute to it.
The question remains open how Tel Aviv can take Riyadh to account - as suggested by the institute - without putting any pressure on Riyadh.
Common opposition towards Iran
A common rivalry with Tehran is a significant factor contributing to Israel's maintenance of its alliance with Saudi Arabia and the crown prince.
Interestingly, the authors of the report think that through the policies of Riyadh, the Saudis are playing into Iranian hands with the siege of Qatar, the "abduction" of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and his forced resignation, and the war in Yemen.
However, the authors argue that for the sake of opposing Iran, Israel should refrain from overtly criticising MBS for the Khashoggi murder - and that Israel should 'walk a fine line' between denouncing actions that violate human rights and understanding that influencing the regime's behaviour from 'the outside' are low.
The war in Yemen
The war in Yemen has likely led to more than 85,000 children dying from starvation, and more than 17,000 death civilians through conventional weapons, mostly Saudi airstrikes , according to the aid organisation Save the Children and the UN Human Rights Council (UNOHCHR).
The UN describes it as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, which has left more than three-quarters of Yemen's population in need of humanitarian aid.
The UNOHCHR has expressed concern that the indiscriminate bombing in Yemen can amount to war crimes, placing the chief architect of that war, MBS, in the crosshairs.
The US Senate passed a bill stating that the US must cease the army’s support for the Saudi-led coalition and its toll on Yemeni lives.
The link between aircraft exported to Saudi Arabia and the bombings of civilian facilities is ‘obvious’ according to the INSS report. Nonetheless, the humanitarian crisis is only mentioned in the context of how MBS can improve his ‘tarnished’ image.
Israel’s future profit
“Even if there is no expectation that in the near future Saudi Arabia will reward Israel, in the long run Israel’s position on the Khashoggi affair might be taken into account in future decisions by the Saudi leadership.”
In conclusion, the authors argue that the alliance with the Saudi kingdom is worth preserving for the possible future benefits—although it states it has no promises from the kingdom—it may reap from its alliance.