Hiding behind one's Mecca: Israeli-Saudi covert normalization
Saudi Arabia has constantly claimed that it is on the side of the Palestinian people against "Israel". However, an examination of history reveals a darker side to the kingdom, as it shows that it has had secret dealings with the Zionist regime since 1962, extending up to the beginning of low-level public relations in 2015.
For the longest time, it's been touted that Saudi Arabia was and is not a proponent of normalization, with people citing its past stances in support of Palestine and condemnation of Israeli violations against the Palestinian people. This is all well and good, but Saudi Arabia’s real-world practices reveal another dimension of its relationship with “Israel”, one of an increasing intersection of interests that is leading up to public normalization.
It would not be without benefit to detail the history of Saudi Arabia’s dealings with the Israeli apartheid regime, if for nothing else but to show the Kingdom’s dual standards in dealing secretly with the enemy of the Palestinian people, while at the same time using Palestine as a front in its rhetoric, in order to show its commitment to Arabhood and to advance its regional interests without arousing the anger of the Arab world.
The Kingdom’s history with "Israel" extends far before 2015, when Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the former head of the Saudi General Intelligence Directory, took part in a high-profile panel with the former Israeli Commander of the IOF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, hosted by the General Marshall Fund think tank. Some, like Alexander Bligh, the Chief Scientist at the Israeli Ministry of Science, found that the relationship between the two dates back to 1962.
“In the early 1960s, following the 1962 revolution in the Yemen, 'Israel' and Saudi Arabia maintained continuous contacts aimed at depriving their common enemy – Egypt – of victory.” During the time of King Saud and then-prince Faysal, this cooperation proved feasible.  The reason was largely caused by Saudi Arabia’s concerns of Egypt becoming a powerful actor among Arab peoples, as Gamal Abd al-Nasser held high the mantle of pan-Arabism, and managed to rally Arab countries against Israeli presence in the region, and against Western imperialist influence.
This is where Saudi and Israeli interests began to intersect. Although the Israeli lobby had up to then repeatedly attempted to block US weapons sales to the Saudi Kingdom, they were largely unsuccessful in doing so in the first few decades after 1948. In Egypt’s influence and Yemen, and its support of the Yemeni revolution in 1962, “Israel” and Saudi Arabia found each other to be unlikely bedfellows in order to prevent their then-common enemy, Egypt, from declaring victory in Yemen.
It was then that contact between the two regimes was initiated outside of the region. This cooperation, which proved feasible at one time on account of the Saudis’ perception that Egypt was becoming a threat to its regional dominance, could prove feasible again whenever actors in the Kingdom perceive an external threat to its interests. Not only that, but Abdel Nasser’s popularity in the Arab world ran counter to both Israeli and Saudi interests if Egypt was to become the leader of the Arab world and rival Saudi Arabia for dominance.
Moreover, Israeli declassified documents also show that "Israel" was also secretly involved during the war, and supplied the royalists with military weapons and equipment against the republicans.
Yemen’s Ali Abdallah Saleh also revealed documents in 2017, showing a letter sent by then-Saudi King Faisal bin Abdel Aziz, asking US President Lyndon Johnson to support an Israeli war on Egypt in order to weaken Egypt’s influence with Yemen’s republicans (The Jerusalem Post also covered the leak with an article in English, which you can find here).
New Middle East
There is largely no information on any meeting between the Saudis and the Israelis after that date, though there is a lot of reason to think that a number of clandestine meetings security meetings took place before 2006, as after “Israel’s” 33-day war on Lebanon, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert secretly met with a high-ranking Saudi official in September, but Olmert said at the time that he did not meet the Saudi king, and sources later clarified that he met someone close to the king instead in a third country.
"I did not meet with the Saudi king and I did not meet with anyone who should cause a sensation in the media," Olmert was quoted as saying at the time by Ynet news, and also said that Saudi Arabia showed “responsibility and judgment” during the war with Lebanon.
“Israel’s” history of relations with Saudi Arabia was again brought up in a May 2021 interview that Russia Today conducted with Olmert, wherein he said that “Israel” has held steady relations with Saudi Arabia since 2006, and that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is very interested in changing the status of relations between “Israel” and Saudi Arabia.
“I can tell you that there has been communication between the Saudis and 'Israel' that dates back 15 years, and all throughout this period. They are not enemies.”
Putting aside public meetings between ranking Saudi and Israeli officials, there have been numerous reports over the years of intersecting interests between the colonial regime and Saudi Arabia (as evidenced by their interests against Egypt), particularly with regards to the resistance’s growing influence in the region, with both regimes showing similar concern of what they perceive to be a threat posed by Iran and its allies.
The horrible torture and murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi by the order of Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, had global implications on Saudi Arabia’s standing; Moreover, it severely harmed business in the Kingdom, with international companies being hesitant to invest in it, lest their doing so is seen as support for the Kingdom that horribly murdered and dismembered a journalist.
Nevertheless, amidst all this, Netanyahu voiced support for Saudi Arabia, citing the primacy of the ‘Iran threat’, which necessitates that there be stability in the Kingdom so that it can use its regional power to counter the resistance.
“What happened at the Istanbul consulate was horrendous and it should be duly dealt with. But at the same time, it is very important for the stability of the region and the world that Saudi Arabia remain stable,” Netanyahu said during a visit to Bulgaria. The ex-PM, now on trial, added “I think that a way must be found to achieve both goals. Because the larger problem I believe is Iran.” Not only that but Netanyahu also lobbied for MbS and pushed the White House to maintain its support for him.
Even before Khashoggi’s murder, Israeli commentator Barak Ravid leaked a cable on Israeli Channel 10 in November 2017, in which the Israeli Foreign Ministry instructs its diplomats to lobby in favor of Saudi Arabia against Iran and Hezbollah.
4 \ The cable said: "You need to stress that the Hariri resignation shows how dangerous Iran and Hezbollah are for Lebanon's security"— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) November 6, 2017
Moreso, in June 2017, renowned journalist David Hearst published an article for the Middle East Eye, wherein he said that “Israel” and Saudi Arabia have forged an alliance against the resistance in Gaza, and that the Kingdom is financing “Israel’s” weapons build-up against Iran.
The Saudi Ambassador to the UK released a statement denying that an alliance has been forged between his country and the Israeli regime, but did not deny that the meetings took place, and in fact stated that “any dealings by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with 'Israel' have been limited to attempts to bring about a plan for peace.”
Beginning of public relations
Public meetings between ranking Saudi Arabian and Israeli figures, however, have also been occurring over the past few years, just as clandestine relations between the two countries are increasing (like secret trade talks that took place in 2017, in a first).
The first such meeting, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, took place in 2015, between Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the former head of the Saudi General Intelligence Directory, and Amos Yadlin the former Israeli Commander of the IOF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, who were brought together in a high-profile and public panel hosted by the General Marshall Fund.
Although the prince was invited for a visit to Al-Quds by the retired Major General, he turned it down, as no official could perform such a visit before a “comprehensive peace deal”. This entailed an indication of the Saudi rhetoric at the time that the Kingdom would not normalize with “Israel”, unless a comprehensive agreement was reached with the Palestinian factions.
However, Turki Al-Faisal managed to keep the atmosphere chummy, replying to the former Mossad spy chief “Yeah, absolutely not,” as the attendance laughed, “and the general knows that.” To perform such a visit before a “peace deal” was “putting the chicken before the egg.”
This visit by such a high-ranking Saudi official, who was the head of the Saudi General Intelligence Directory for 24 years, effectively broke the taboo on meetings with Israeli officials, allowing a delegation of Saudi academics and businessmen - led by retired Saudi General Anwar Eshki, who was a former advisor to the Saudi government - to visit the occupied territories in July 2016.
Knesset Member Issawi Frej, one of the other MK members who took part in the meeting, said "The Saudis want to open up to 'Israel'...It’s a strategic move for them. They want to continue what former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat started (with the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty). They want to get closer with 'Israel', and we could feel it clearly."
If that wasn’t enough, the Editor of Haaretz’s English Edition Avi Scharf revealed in November 2020, meaning when Trump and Netanyahu were both still in power, that a visit had occurred for the first time between former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, during the time Mike Pompeo was visiting Saudi Arabia.
MBS and Pompeo were at NEOM at the time. https://t.co/bc2H4hETk8— avi scharf (@avischarf) November 23, 2020
Netanyahu’s associates later leaked that a meeting indeed took place between the two, for which the Israeli PM received some flak from Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who called the leak “irresponsible”.
The history of relations between the two regimes showed that intersecting regional interests, allieviated by both of them being allies with the Western camp, was the basis on which they were able to build their covert relations. From, Israeli support for the war on Yemen, to Saudi Arabia's inching towards increasingly overt security cooperation, and up to its outright criticism of the Palestinian leaderships and their stance against the normalization process adopted by the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, as evidenced by ex-spy chief Bandar bin Sultan's interview on Saudi Arabia's official Al-Arabiya TV, all show that both regimes are drawing increasingly closer to normalizing ties.
It is one thing to be with normalization, or to have secret dealings with “Israel”, but it’s something else when Saudi Arabia claims to be on the side of the Palestinian people against “Israel” while holding and advancing relations with the apartheid regime, only to later stab Palestine in the back.
 Bligh, Alexander. 1985. “Towards Israel-Saudi co-existence?” Jerusalem Quarterly, no. 35, 24 - 35.