The Middle East's Worst-kept Secret....Persian Gulf countries maintain covert contacts with Israel, primarily for intelligence sharing....and Covert Shenanigans in Lebanon....
Reactions to the proposed $60 billion US-Saudi arms deal demonstrate how similar threat perception vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran is bringing about greater cooperation between Arabs and Israelis, who in many ways see the strategic environment through a similar prism.
Previous arms sales - none of which were as large - encountered strong opposition from the Israeli government. This time Jerusalem has remained relatively quiet. Is this because Washington values the deal over Israeli concerns, or is Israel becoming more comfortable with weapons sales to the Gulf?
The rise of Iran and the mutual fear in Jerusalem and Riyadh of its nuclear aspirations make the political and religious differences between the two capitals pale in comparison.
Israel and the Arab Gulf states do not regard one another as a direct and pressing threat. The fact that the Gulf states are considered politically moderate, that there is no "bad blood" between them and Israel, that they are all close to the US and that there is a growing shared threat perception regarding Iran leads many here and in the Gulf to see the value of an ad hoc partnership. All involved have a strong interest in bolstering their relations, however quietly, to weaken the influence of radical forces in the region.
FOR THE Arab monarchies, regime stability and Iran's drive for a hegemonic role in the Gulf are the main concerns. On the one hand, Teheran has tried to convey that it sees itself as a partner of all Gulf states. On the other, its words and actions have aroused concern on the western side of the Gulf: It has challenged the legitimacy of local regimes, explicitly threatened to shut the Straits of Hormuz and to target strategic facilities in the Gulf states, conducted intimidating military maneuvers, occupied Abu Musa and the Tunb Islands and has even declared that Bahrain is the 14th district of Iran, which is reminiscent of Saddam Hussein's rhetoric regarding Kuwait in 1990.
Both Israelis and Arabs worry that an Iranian bomb will enable Tehran to determine the region's future strategic agenda. To confront the threat, the monarchs have chosen an often contradictory strategy that combines efforts at reconciliation, overt support for diplomatic negotiations to resolve the nuclear crisis and reliance on American military forces as a deterrent and for protection, with behind the scenes activity whose main goal is to distance the conflict from their territory.
Although religiously conservative, the Gulf states fear Iran, are close to the US and, above all, want to preserve regional stability. They would thus seem to be natural supporters of Arab peace with Israel. Indeed, any progress made by Israelis and Palestinians towards peace would also make it easier for them to resume confidence-building measures and to otherwise defrost their relations with the Jewish state. Regardless, the more Iran is perceived as a threat to both Israel and to the Arab Gulf states, the easier it will be for them to cooperate.
IT IS an open secret that at least some Gulf countries maintain covert contacts with Israel, primarily for intelligence sharing. It has been reported often (though with questionable reliability) that Saudi Arabia would allow the IAF to use its airspace to attack Iran's nuclear sites, and that senior Israeli officials, including the head of the Mossad, meet with Gulf officials with increasing regularity.
Indeed, in the eyes of Arab Gulf rulers it may seem that Israel can play a critical role in ensuring Gulf security, especially with the US determined to leave Iraq and Afghanistan. In this regard, recent reports of Israeli submarine activity in the Gulf are noteworthy.
Formal relations would bring only modest political and economic rewards to Gulf countries, in comparison with the potential political losses from domestic and pan- Arab pressure. Whether the monarchs change the dual nature of their policy - formal opposition to normalizing relations along with maintaining this unprecedented, even if tacit by nature, alliance with Israel - remains to be seen. For now, it serves both sides' particular interests.....
....This is from an unpublished (unclassified) American government study of the subject. It states: "An actual Israeli support of the Saudi-Imamate causes probably began prior to any direct meetings between representatives of the two governments and the Yemeni Royalist movement...This study has been able to trace at least two locations of direct Saudi-Israeli meetings which began at two distinct phases in the Yemeni civil war. The first traceable set of meetings began in March of 1963 in India. Indian sources reported that an official of the Saudi Embassy in India, Ahmad Allalah Al-Qadi, began frequenting the Israeli consulate in Bombay. According to Arab (Egyptian) sources, Crown Prince Faisal ordered the Saudi official's meetings in reaction to the two Arab nationalist coups in Baghdad and Damascus in February and March 1963 that removed anti-Nasser governments from power in each state...The focus of the Israeli-Saudi talks were the prospects for Israel dropping arms for the Royalist tribal forces as well as Israel providing military intelligence regarding Egyptian army movements and capabilities to both the Saudis and Yemenis. Israeli and Yemeni representatives met directly, either upon their own initiative, or under Saudi auspices, during this period. An Imamate delegate visited Israel in March 1963 at the same time that the Saudi embassy official began visiting the Israeli consulate in Bombay...However, other Israeli sources disclosed that unmarked Israeli planes made over a dozen and perhaps as many as twenty flights from Djibouti to drop arms over Royalist areas in late 1962 and most of 1963. The second confirmed set of Saudi-Israeli meetings occurred in Europe and began in 1965. In a highly unusual manner, former Israeli ambassador to Great Britain (1965-1970) Aharon Remez, made mention of his, and other high Israeli officials, continuous contacts with "Arab leaders from Saudi Arabia and Jordan" in a 1983 newspaper interview. In neither the original Kol Ha'ir (August 12, 1983) newspaper article nor subsequent interview did the former ambassador reveal the contents of the meetings, except to say that "not much came out of these, but they were very eye opening." In all subsequent interviews Remez stated that he feared that it was still early early to talk about the meetings. However, other (military) sources, claim that AMAN, the Saudi Defense Ministry and the security branches of Iran, including SAVAK as well as the Iranian Ministry of Defense, were in constant contact with one another even following the Israeli victory in June 1967. One source asserts that Moshe Dayan was the key intermediary with the Saudi defense establishment who soon shifted their focus of concern toward other areas of the Arabian Peninsula, such as the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen..." (pp. 23-25 from the unpublished, unclassified secret US government study).