By Azriel Bermant, published in Haaretz, 14 April 2022
This article is adapted from a paper I have written for the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. This will be posted separately in the publications section of the website.
In August 2020, Israel announced that it had reached historic peace deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain that would become known as the Abraham Accords. At the end of March, Israel hosted a summit in the Negev desert featuring the foreign ministers of the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Morocco. Over recent years, formal and informal ties between Israelis and Saudis have also intensified, amid the shared perception of an acute threat from Iran.
Coverage of the Abraham Accords has tended to focus on the change in the attitudes of the Gulf states, yet there has been surprisingly little scrutiny of the change in Israel’s perception of Saudi Arabia. Indeed, 40 years ago, Israel viewed Riyadh as an implacable enemy of the State of Israel, much as Tehran is today. On the surface, this is extraordinary given that back in August 1981, Saudi Crown Prince Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud unveiled a peace initiative that appeared to offer recognition of the Jewish state.
Israel responded by launching an inflammatory campaign against the regime in Riyadh and came close to igniting a war with Saudi Arabia in November that year.
Dr Azriel Bermant
Foreign Policy and International Security Analyst, Historian, Lecturer, Author