Leaked: Saudis have ‘plans for official ties with Israel’
A Lebanese newspaper has published a secret undated letter from Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that puts forward a plan to normalize ties with Israel despite “risks” of a public backlash.
Lebanon’s al-Akhbar daily released the correspondence on Tuesday in the wake of reports that Riyadh and Tel Aviv are increasingly tilting toward one another in defiance of strong opposition among the Arabs to such rapprochement.
“I have the honor to submit to you the draft of the plan to establish relations between the kingdom and the State of Israel, based on the strategic partnership agreement with the United States of America, which was discussed with the secretary of state,” the letter reads.
Jubeir referred to Israel as a “state” while Saudi Arabia, along with other Arab League states, does not formally recognize the occupying entity.
It, however, warned that the establishment of ties with Israel involves a risk to Saudi Arabia “given the spiritual, historical, and religious status of the Palestinian issue” in public opinion.
“The Kingdom will not take this risk unless it feels the United States’ sincere approach to Iran, which is destabilizing the region,” it went on to say.
The letter also set out a number of conditions for the normalization of relations with Israel:
Saudi seeks ‘military equivalence’
The letter says any Riyadh-Tel Aviv rapprochement needs “equivalence” between the two sides.
“At the military level, Israel is considered the only country with nuclear weapons in the Middle East…. accordingly, the kingdom must acquire this deterrent or seek to remove Israel’s,” it said.
‘Palestine refugees won’t be back’
The Saudis would contribute to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by proposing resettling Palestinian refugees in their host countries rather than returning to their homeland.
The kingdom would also propose for Jerusalem al-Quds to be placed under international control administered by the United Nations.
Iran ‘common Israel-Saudi target’
In the letter, Jubeir describes Iran as the “main threat” to the region, saying a resolution of Israel-Palestine conflict would help Riyadh and Tel Aviv to focus on the Islamic Republic.
When the conflict is settled, Jubeir writes, Saudi Arabia and Israel would pursue their “common goals” regarding Iran.
The two regimes, according to the letter, want tougher US and international sanctions against Iran over its missile program and human rights issues.
Among other goals are lobbying the six parties to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran to ensure its strict implementation and capitalizing on Iran’s economic problems to increase pressure on the country.
The two sides are also concerned over Iran’s influential role in the Middle East, which the letter says should be confronted.
The letter was leaked amid numerous reports of behind-the-scene contacts between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.
In September, Israeli and Arab media reported that a Saudi prince had traveled to Israel and had held consultations with senior Israeli officials over “regional peace.”
A month later, an Israeli official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP Arabic that Mohammed bin Salman had in fact been the prince who visited Israel in September.
An official source at the Saudi Foreign Ministry, however, dismissed the news about bin Salman’s trip.
Back in June, The Times cited unnamed Arab and American sources as saying that Tel Aviv and Riyadh were in clandestine talks to establish official economic ties for the first time since the entity was created.
Additionally, Israel’s Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz called on Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to invite Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to Riyadh to establish full diplomatic relations.