A Saudi-Israel ‘Alliance’

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With or without a Two-State solution?

1/   As expected, there are no urgent demands from the UN and EU for Hamas to immediately cease its war against Israel and abandon its aim of obliterating the Jewish state.  Likewise, there are no similar demands from member-states of these organizations.   And where-oh-where are the demands from Israel to these states and to the ‘international community’ for the same?   If Israel doesn’t express its own interests to the international public, who will? 

2/   Instead, we have increasingly loud and increasingly frequent pressure on Israel for a ceasefire in Gaza which will leave Hamas in place.   It’s as if Israel was not the victim of a remorseless enemy determined to destroy it, kill as many Jews as possible and establish a caliphate ruled by Shari’a law – all clearly outlined in the Hamas Charter/Covenant.   

3/   We also have increasingly loud and increasingly frequent statements by Guterres, Borrell, Biden and Cambell reasserting that the basic cure for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the two-state solution.   This could develop into a major challenge to Israel, unless it is merely sound and fury signifying nothing. 

Selling the Two-state Solution – again

4/    The core selling point of the two-state solution, expressed by Cameron in perfect imitation of Obama, is that it would mean two states living side-by-side in peace and security.   Announced from his visit to Lebanon, a state which still refuses to recognize and sign a peace treaty with Israel, it sounds irresistible.   But as before, Cameron and other advocates of the plan mistake what they think the Palestinians ought to want for what they actually do want.   As a result, the giant obstacle that has collapsed all previous peace plans is again ignored.  

5/   If the same ‘plan’ and the same evasion of the same giant obstacle continues, it is likely to have the same chance of success as before – zero.   Already, the evasion has begun with the suggestion that the Israeli public is not in-the-mood for this appealing solution as it is wild with rage at the 7th October massacre.  The implication is that when things ‘blow-over’ Israel ought to be more receptive to such a sound idea.  

6/   Yes, Israel is wild with anger at the barbarism of October 7th.  Yet well beforehand the Israeli public has been increasingly dubious about a two-state solution.    True, in some quarters, the Oslo Accords had produced high hopes that at last an end to the conflict was in sight.  This was shattered by a series of events which have all but eroded such confidence.  

7/   Following the Oslo Accords, the first of these events was the explosion of terrorist attacks in the Second Intifada of 2000-1.  The second, following Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza (disengagement) and the seizure of power by Hamas, was a constant series of rocket attacks and wars between 2007 and 2023.  Finally, the trauma of the deadly 7th October massacre has practically eliminated any desire or confidence for a repetition of these ‘peace’ experiments.  This conclusion is not a question of mere mood but the product of collective experience

The rock against which Two-state Solutions crash

8/   The single greatest obstacle to the failure of all previous plans for a two-state solution has been the refusal of the Palestinians to accept a Jewish state and their unwavering intention to eliminate it.   This relentless enmity was apparent even before Israel captured the West Bank in the 6-Day War in 1967.  It is why all Palestinian factions claim the whole territory of Israel – the ‘48 territoriesfrom the river to the sea – and not just the West Bank.  This has been and remains the driving force of the conflict.

9/   It is why:

  • the Palestinians refuse to accept a two-state solution in which two-states for two peoples live side by side as an end to the conflict
  • they devote zero effort to promote a peaceful solution among Palestinians, 
  • they devote an enormous amount of energy, resources, and funds to attack Israel and murder Jews,   
  • President Abbas and Prime Minister Shtayyeh of the PA failed to condemn the Hamas attacks and in their wake have called for unity with Hamas.   

10/  The two-state solution problem for Israel is that an eliminationist Palestinian state is bound to use its territory, or allow it to be used, for attacks on Israel to be prepared or launched.  For as long as Palestinians hold firm to eliminationist intentions, weapons will be brought across the border from Jordan.  Control of the West Bank heights overlooking Israel’s largest population and business centers, its main transport network, its international airport, and routes to Jerusalem, will be under constant threat.  The danger is perfectly demonstrated by Hamas in Gaza.

11/   The rejection by the Palestinians of  the Jewish state makes  a win-win solution to the conflict impossible.  This boils down the conflict to a winner-takes-all/zero-sum contest where the issue is who will win,  Israel or the Palestinians. 

Autonomy, self-determination, and statehood

12/   Yet much of the ‘western’ international community is consumed by the ideology that national self-determination for oppressed peoples is a right.  In this view, although there is no international definition of a ‘people’, the Palestinian people deserve a state and Israel is seen as evil for refusing it.  Seemingly ‘forgotten’ are the number of times Israel has agreed to or proposed a Palestinian state but each time they have been rejected by the Palestinians.    

13/   In fact, there is no obligation in international law that requires self-determination to mean statehood.  Yet the UN and EU act as if statehood is the only possibility – at least for the Palestinians.  In this view, the right to statehood eclipses any consideration of whether a Palestinian state would have the right or would deserve the right to wipe out another state.  

14/   So great is the animosity against Israel within the UN, founded to preserve peace between states, that consideration of the aforementioned Palestinian intentions is overridden.  These intentions are masked behind the twin assumptions that:

  1. the conflict is not existential but a territorial dispute about how the territory should be shared, 
  2. the Palestinians will accept a West Bank-based state despite their  claim to the West Bank and the entire territory of Israel (see, In What Sense is the West Bank Palestinian Territory?).

15/   Perhaps many are not aware of these issues, but many don’t want to see them due to an ideological opposition to the Jewish state.    Additionally, as well as ideological or moral reasons for the political positions taken by states there are also geopolitical interests.  This combination has resulted in the extreme ‘reluctance’ of the UN and EU to, 

  • condemn aims to destroy a member-state of the UN, or 
  • organize UN opposition to those aims, or
  • attempt to persuade or pressurize the Palestinians to drop their eliminationist demands. 

16/   Instead, by dealing with Palestinian organizations as if they were normal and respectable, the UN and EU have provided them with political cover.  They have also provided ‘aid’, from which they knew large amounts were seized by terrorist organizations.  And because funds are ‘fungible’, they also effectively allowed the transfer of other funds out of projects financed by the UN and EU and into the pay-to-slay scheme of the PA or for Hamas’ rockets to attack Israel.  

Inducement and threat

17/   Unfortunately, to date these arguments seem to have had zero impact on those who appear happy to railroad Israel into an ‘agreement’ for a Palestinian state.   The threat to Israel is the prospect of the loss of western support.   The inducement is that in return for swallowing the bitter pill of an eliminationist Palestinian state, Israel will receive the prize of a ‘normalization’ deal with Saudi Arabia and the prospect of the return of some/most/all the hostages.  But the cost is dangerously high if Hamas and the PA are included in a future Gaza government. 

18/   An initial credibility problem is that the Saudi prize is hardly the possession of the US to deliver.  A second problem is that Saudi Arabia is not an open society and the outcome of the struggle between raison d’état and tradition is uncertain.   This implies a vacillation that is hard to read with confidence.   It has been reported that they will insist on a Palestinian state as a price for normalization.  It has also been reported that they are willing to accept as a price for normalization only that Israel agrees to work towards a Palestinian state.   So which is it?   

19/   In any case, if the raison d’état is ascendent, the Saudis will be content to progress relations with Israel without a formal ‘normalization’, and the two-state-solution price to Israel will be unnecessary.   But why would the Saudis do this?   Because raison d’état dictates that their own pressing interests are entirely separate from the political requirements and preferences of President Biden, Guterres, Borrell or Campbell.  The loss of confidence in US protection against Iran means that Saudi Arabia has a big and urgent need for military back-up that is independent of a solution to a problem that systematically defies solution.

Saudi options

20/   Any state which is threatened by a more powerful neighbor, has basically five choices: 

  1. make the best deal possible with the threatening neighbor,
  2. form alliances against it with others who face the same threat,
  3. make an alliance with a more powerful state as a counterbalance,
  4. create diversions to distract the threatening state and keep it busy,
  5. become a nuclear power.

21/   For the Saudis, none of these are simple or secure and all come with high costs and risks.  It is also impossible to know in advance which will be best.  Therefore, attempts may well be made to try them all simultaneously.  This will be expensive.  But Saudi Arabia has oceans of cash to throw at solving the problem..   

22/  Following the Saudi loss of confidence in the US, the largest potential allies such as Russia or China are currently too weak, too preoccupied, or too far away to be relied upon.   Choices are therefore limited.   Although nowhere near as powerful as the US, or China and Russia, an ‘alliance’ with Israel ticks many boxes:  

  1. it is nearby,  
  2. it faces the same threat from Iran, 
  3. it is an economic and military powerhouse in the region, 
  4. it has repeatedly shown a willingness to fight for its interests – even if that means crossing its main ally, the US,
  5. it has a great deal to offer economically.

Would Israel fight for the Saudis?

23/   A big question for Saudi Arabia is whether Israel would fight for Saudi interests.  No-one knows for sure, which is why speculation and uncertainty are unavoidable.   For example, would it be in the interest of Israel to allow Saudi Arabia to be overrun by Iran?   Absolutely not.   But would Israel allow it to happen?   Ahead of the occasion and the circumstances, who knows?

24/   Likewise, could Israel prevent or help counter an Iranian naval attack to control the Straits of Hormuz or a land attack through or round Kuwait to capture Saudi oil fields?  Israel’s lack of naval power and its small army makes this unlikely.   But Israel’s airpower would be a big help in deterring Iran and well worth the Saudis having as potential back-up threat.           

25/   In addition, raison d’état dictates that Saudi Arabia has a great need to diversify its economy away from a reliance on oil.   Israel’s expertise in hi-tech, water and agricultural know-how would be invaluable for this.  But however valuable, it cannot be relied upon and would in any case be insufficient for Saudi needs.  Therefore, as ever, the need to keep economic and strategic options open has led the Saudis to try other avenues – hence it has joined BRICS, along with its enemy Iran.

26/   The fourth option for Saudi Arabia is to create or foster diversions to occupy the attention of Iran.  A possible Achilles-heel for Iran is that only around 50% are Persian and Shi’a.  This offers scope for troublemaking inside Iran among the Ahwazi Arabs in the west, the Sunni Kurds in the north, and the Sunni Baluchis in the east.  For the Saudis anything that obstructs the use of Iranian military power in their direction is welcome.   Also welcome are diversions of Iranian attention from outside Iran by,  for example, the Sunni Afghan Taliban and, of course, Israel.  

27/    Although an alliance with Israel may not be the savior of Saudi Arabia, it would be very handy to have Israel on-side.   Maybe Israel can require its own price?   Even if not, it’s far from clear whether Biden-Cameron-Guterres-Borrell are necessary to secure Saudi normalization, which is occurring behind the scenes anyway.

Only one peaceful solution to the conflict

28/    Continuing this speculation, it may also be the case that President Biden has neither the will nor the time to follow through with his two-state intentions.  He has also allowed himself certain wiggle room in statements that there are several definitions of statehood.  The problem with such ‘flexibility’ is that it risks appearing indecisive.   It also leaves the intended result vague, uncertain, confusing, and unsatisfactory, with lots of room for the continuation of the conflict it advertises as solving.  

29/   Finally, if the current push for two-states proves to be as determined as it sounds, it is a deliberate attempt to by-pass the Oslo agreements on a negotiated solution.  This tells the Palestinians that they have no need to negotiate as they are about to be handed a state by the West.   As a result, the causes of the conflict remain intact, along with the pretense that it is merely a territorial dispute rather than an existential conflict.  This means that the claimed solution will not be a solution and will not be peaceful.

30/   This leaves the Palestinians in a distressing situation of their own making.  There is only one way to prevent this:   

  • the Palestinians need to be induced to abandon their disastrous opposition to the Jewish state, cease all intentions to destroy it, and reject the Palestinian National Charter.

But where are the calls from the international community for exactly this – and measures for its implementation?

31/   Given current political realities, the UN, EU and others are unlikely to arrive at this need  unaided.   It is also unlikely that the international mass media will make it clear that instead of favoring a two-state solution with those who wish to destroy Israel, everything should be done to coax or coerce the Palestinians to drop their catastrophic eliminationist intentions which are the cause and driving force of the conflict.     

How Israel should react?

32/   The tragedy of Israel’s intelligence and military failures of 7th October are well-known in essence if not in detail.   Yet the conceptzia that led to that tragedy is being mimicked by the scarcely believable failure of Israeli PR.

33/   The central task of Israel’s international public diplomacy is to influence public opinion so that Israel’s diplomatic interests are unforgettable and cannot be avoided by the UN and EU.  Yet time and again, these issues are missed by Israeli spokespersons in interviews and articles for foreign media outlets.  Recent examples are the interview at Davos with President Herzog and his article in the NYT, or the recent interviews with Naftali Bennett on Al-Arabiya and the BBC’s HARDtalk (for detailed comments, see Naftali Bennett – Interview on BBC’s HARDtalk).  

34/   This raises the question of whether Israel really possesses a public diplomacy strategy.  If so, the cluelessness of much of the international community demonstrates that it isn’t working.  In fact, Israeli PR falls badly at the first hurdle by failing entirely to address the issues which bother the international public, and which contribute most to widespread animosity towards Israel.  This begs the question: what is to be done?   

 

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