Saudi lobbyist calls for 'collaborative alliance' with Israel

#Diplomacy

A prominent Saudi lobbyist said Saudi Arabia and Israel have never sought any 'provocative or hostile actions' against each other

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz smiling as he stands in a room overlooking temporary accommodation to visiting pilgrims in Mina (AFP)
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Thursday 13 October 2016 12:03 UTC
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The founder of Saudi Arabia’s first public affairs organisation in the United States has called for the kingdom to form a “collaborative alliance” with Israel.

Salman al-Ansari is the president of the Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), which he founded in March this year.

On Tuesday Ansari wrote in American outlet The Hill that an alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be “in the interest of the greater Middle East” as well as being a “mutually beneficial economic partnership”.

Saudi Arabia and Israel officially have no diplomatic relationship, due to the former’s opposition to the continuing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory.

Ansari is a prominent Saudi figure, with over 100,000 Twitter followers, and he has previously said he founded SAPRAC to improve understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

In his opinion piece Ansari argued that Saudi Arabia and Israel have never sought confrontation, which could open the door for a strategic relationship between the two regional powerhouses.

“It is common knowledge that Saudi Arabia and Israel have committed to rational and balanced foreign policies over the past 70 years, never seeking any provocative or hostile actions against each other,” Ansari wrote.

Ansari argued Israel may be able to contribute to realising the vision of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who earlier this year set out a plan to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil revenues that currently accounts for 90 percent of government income.

“Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is […] viewed by political observers as a pragmatic and progressive personality, with all indicators showing that he is prepared and willing to develop real, enduring ties with Israel,” Ansari wrote.

A public relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be a sensitive topic for the kingdom’s public, the vast majority of whom probably oppose a deal with the Israelis until the Palestinian issue is settled.

But Ansari said Israel’s successful mining and diamond industry – as well as its water engineering industry – could prove useful for Saudi Arabia’s economic plans and needs.

“[Israel is] extraordinarily qualified to help Saudi Arabia with its ambitious desalination plans, which are a crucial part of the Deputy Crown Prince’s blueprint for Saudi’s economic reform, ‘Vision 2030’,” Ansari wrote.

Ansari argued that trust would need to be built between the two countries for a relationship to flourish, but that this could be established with both facing “constant threats from extremist groups that are directly supported by the totalitarian government of Iran”.

“Any form of normalisation between the two countries is also an Arabic and Muslim normalisation towards Israel, which will undoubtedly promote security and weaken extremism in the region,” he wrote.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.