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Israel and Sunni Arab nations are allies, says senior Israeli official

Despite having no diplomatic relations with the Gulf states Israeli officials increasingly see Saudi Arabia and the UAE as allies against Iran
Dore Gold is director general of Israel's foreign ministry and an adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu (AFP)

The director of the Israeli foreign ministry has publicly referred to Sunni Arab nations as being Israel’s allies, according to a report on Thursday in Haaretz.

Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold, who previously served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, twice referred to his “Sunni Arab allies” in a presentation in New York addressing the recent Iranian nuclear deal.

“What we have is a regime on a roll that is trying to conquer the Middle East,” Gold said, referring to Iran.

“And it’s not Israel talking, that is our Sunni Arab neighbours – and you know what? I’ll use another expression – that is our Sunni Arab allies talking.”

Gold did not specify which Sunni Arab nations he was speaking about in his speech, however, he has been seen this year engaging with senior figures from Gulf nations.

In June, eyebrows were raised when Gold held a public meeting with retired Saudi general and former top advisor to the Riyadh government, Anwar Eshki, at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.

At the meeting both men agreed that Iran is the top threat to regional security. Bloomberg News reported at the time that Israel and Saudi Arabia, who officially have no diplomatic relations, have held at least five clandestine meetings to discuss Iran over the past five years.

Retired Israeli general Shimon Shapira said of Saudi Arabia: “We discovered we have the same problems and same challenges and some of the same answers.”

Qatar and Oman allowed an Israeli embassy to be opened on their territory during the mid-1990s but they have since been closed due to protests over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The United Arab Emirates, another country that officially has no diplomatic ties with Israel, was revealed by Middle East Eye last year to be allowing regular semi-covert flights between the two countries. Middle East Eye later revealed that Abu Dhabi has a mass civil surveillance system installed by an Israeli-owned company.

Public relations between Israel and Sunni Arab states are sensitive because of the latter’s stated opposition to the occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Sensitivities are raised higher too because of public opposition in the Gulf to Israel’s ongoing perceived mistreatment of the Palestinians.