The assumption that closer relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel will dramatically improve Israel’s strategic positioning in the region should be examined critically, in light of the kingdom’s limitations and the internal challenges it faces. Moreover, the gap between the House of Saud and the Saudi public is wide, and so the dividends that Israel would yield from establishing formal relations may be limited by pressure from public opinion.
It is also possible that Riyadh is satisfied with the current fruits that Israeli-Saudi cooperation is yielding. Therefore, there is reason to doubt that it is willing to take on additional risks, in particular by potentially alienating Saudi citizens at a politically sensitive moment.
Israeli-Saudi cooperation is still a long way from realizing its full potential. However, the relationship should not be disregarded because of its limitations, but Israel should seek to deepen it to the extent possible within the existing constraints. In fact, even the appearance of a united Israeli-Saudi front will have deterrent value against Iran.
Dr. Yoel Guzansky is a Research Fellow specializing in Gulf politics at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Israel. Khader Sawaed is a Neubauer Research Associate at the INSS and a PhD candidate in the Political Science department at the University of Haifa. Ari Heistein is the Special Assistant to the Director of the INSS.