The usually-talkative Israel when it comes to claims of democracy and human rights has been silent over what it fears to be the dangerous retreat, or even collapse, of one of the pillars of its camp in the region and its most important ally, who Trump described as “our boy” – Saudi Arabia. This is a result of the wrongful assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his country’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.
Israel fears that its vision, position and ability to formulate policies in the region, especially the fight against the forces of liberation and resistance or the forces of development and democracy, will be lost or reduced. It is also afraid it can no longer strengthen and reinforce some dictatorships in the region. Despite its silence, it seems to be preparing for a post-Khashoggi age in order to minimise its losses, but it is not guaranteed to succeed.
Many Israelis believe that their government’s silence was initially shock at the situation. Rather, this in fact turned out to be Israel playing its old tricks, showing support for its partner in a time of hardship regardless of whether it is innocent or guilty. In Israel’s opinion, if they failed to provide support then at least they tried, and if their partner succeeded in evading the predicament – albeit injured and weak – friendship would remain and promises would be kept. The Arab affairs analyst at Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth noted this Israeli strategy in dealing with its followers and allies, citing the Egyptian situation as well as Israel’s loss of an alternative to the trusted Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS).
Some Israeli security experts have pointed out, albeit indirectly, the extent of the Israeli loss in terms of intelligence caused by the ramifications of Khashoggi’s assassination. This is especially the case given the alleged involvement of high-ranking Saudi figures, such as the King’s advisor Mohammed Al-Asiri – who is widely regarded in Israel as the “intelligence man” and the first point of contact between the Kingdom and Israel. Hence Israel has, in a public manner, lost one of the most important figures for effective security and intelligence coordination with Saudi Arabia. This is not something that can easily be replaced.
On the other hand, many Israelis could not hide their anger at the brilliance of Turkey, headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in its professional and skilful dealings with Khashoggi’s assassination. This has made them stars around the world, despite previous efforts to obliterate them and conspire against them. This anger regarding Erdogan’s role as investigator, judge and executioner is apparent in Israeli commentary and statements, for example in a piece written by Israeli professor Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz on Wednesday. At the same time, he acknowledged and recognised Turkey’s success in managing the crisis and leaving the facts to speak for themselves, without the need for other political or linguistic influences.
In addition to this, an Israeli intelligence official expressed wishful thinking in his article for Yedioth Ahronoth on Wednesday. He explained that he wishes Turkey had shown the same determination to investigate and gather information against Hamas and its senior officials in Turkey as it did in the Khashoggi case. These words hide within them Israel’s feelings of anger and resentment towards Turkey, as well Israel’s recognition of the high level of professionalism on the part of the Turkish security and intelligence authorities in following up and deciphering the codes of the Khashoggi assassination. These are qualities that the Israelis do not like to see in anyone else, as they like only to describe themselves as possessing such characteristics.
This Israeli resentment has revealed the complaint by the Israeli intelligence services against President Erdogan, dealing a harsh blow to whatever is left of Turkish-Israeli relations. Hence, Israel has unwillingly found itself one of the biggest losers from the repercussions of Khashoggi’s murder. At least one of its most important allies in the Middle East has fallen, while one of its major opponents – against which it has been openly fighting – has risen and become stronger: President Erdogan.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi 21 on 25 October 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.