Israel continues to need more allies.
It was recently able to normalize relations with the UAE and Bahrain in part because of the Iranian threat.
If, as a next step, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could visit Saudi Arabia, it might reverberate in a similar way as Nixon’s trip to China or Anwar Sadat’s 1977 visit to Jerusalem.
Saudi Arabia’s long history of opposition to Israel, and financing terrorism, would make everyone pause.
Israel and Saudi Arabia each understand that Iran is a threat to both countries.
According to former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, told him in a 2001 meeting that "setting Israel on fire" was at the top of Iran’s agenda.
According to Aznar, Khamenei said that Israel is a “cancer condemned to disappear” and that he believed that an "open confrontation" with America and Israel was inevitable.
In 2002, Khamenei was trying to make good on his threat when an Iranian opposition group revealed a secret uranium enrichment facility in Natanz.
In September 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama revealed the existence of a second secret enrichment facility.
If the Iranian nuclear threat was only an Israeli problem, the Saudis would not be secretly working with Israel. Saudi Arabia has actively promoted anti-Semitism in their "educational" textbooks.
King Faisal, who ruled Saudi Arabia from 1964 to 1975, used to give visitors copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, one of the ultimate anti-Semitic texts.
A normalization agreement between the two nations would also convince a significant number of Americans to share the Saudis’ fear that Iranian leaders are crazy enough to use nuclear weapons. Currently, the Biden administration is pushing in a different direction, wanting to return to the Iran Deal and to condemn Saudi Arabia for the 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.
Certainly, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is atrocious. A reading of the State Department’s 2018 Human Rights Report on Saudi Arabia confirms that the Khashoggi assassination may not be the worst thing that the Saudi government has done recently. Here are some of the most important takeaways from that report:
In 2015, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of countries to fight a war in Yemen.
According to the State Department’s report, between 2015 to 2018, an estimated 6,592 civilians were killed in Yemen, including more than 1,200 children.
In Saudi Arabia, people can be killed for apostasy, adultery, and homosexuality.
In August 2017, it was reported that more than 2,000 people had been detained for at least three years without a formal criminal charge or a trial. The court system is not independent of the monarch, and there is no presumption of innocence.
This is no freedom of the press. On Feb. 8, 2018, newspaper columnist Saleh al-Shehi was arrested for criticizing the government.
In July 2018, Safar al-Hawali, his brother, and four of his children, were arrested because he wrote a book critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
No one should go to prison for writing a book.
That said, the United States is still better off keeping its alliance with Saudi Arabia.
Fortunately, the United States is now less reliant on oil imports.
According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2004 the United States imported between 9 to 10 million barrels of crude oil per day.
In 2020 and 2021, the daily average ranges from 5 to 6 million barrels per day.
This means we are now in a position to demand more from Saudi Arabia, which cannot rely on oil revenues forever.
That said, the United States has a better chance of convincing the Saudi leaders to improve their human rights practices as their ally.
If military action against Iran is ever necessary, it would be easier for Israel to bomb Iran if they could refuel their planes in Saudi airspace.
This would increase the range of Israel’s fighter jets.In terms of soft power, one notable idea is that water-related cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia could help other countries in the Middle East while further isolating Iran.
While Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, this terrorist group has maintained relations with Saudi Arabia. Hamas cannot officially accept Israel’s help, but they might accept Israel’s water technology if the Saudis give it to them.
The leadership of Hamas has mismanaged the water situation in Gaza.
The only aquifer has overdrawn the water. In 2018, the United Nations declared that Gaza was unlivable in part because of contaminated water, a collapsing health system, and 70% youth unemployment.
In the last year, Watergen, an Israeli company, provided Gaza with two atmospheric water generators, which extract water from the air.
These machines, which cost $61,000 each, can produce up to 6,000 liters of water per day.
It would take about 1,000 of these machines to support the 2 million Gazans with fresh water. This would cost $61 million. Saudi Arabia could pay for these machines.
It's doubtful Hamas could publicly refuse such a noble offer from an Arab country.
In Syria, more than 500,000 people have died.
There are over 5 million Syrian refugees abroad and at least 11 million people internally displaced.
This war began in 2011 because Syria experienced the worst drought in 800 years from 2006 to 2010.
As long as the water shortages persist, this war will continue because millions of Syrians have nothing left to lose. If the Israelis and Saudis can credibly solve the water issue, the Syrian factions might be willing to seriously discuss peace.
Syria might even decide to end its alliance with Iran.
Hopefully, success in Gaza and Syria could lead to other joint water initiatives in other parts of the Middle East. According to UNICEF, "In 2020, an estimated 20.1 million Yemenis needed humanitarian assistance to access safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene provisions."
In 2018, there were protests in Iran because of water scarcity. The protests in Lebanon and Iraq in recent years can be partially attributed to water mismanagement.
A normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia can change the Middle East for the better. The United States should encourage these two countries to make peace.
Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. He has been published in numerous outlets, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. When he's not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in New York. Read Robert Zapesochny's Reports — More Here.
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