Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the United States to stand by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS) after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The revelation was made by the Washington Post yesterday, citing information from US officials familiar with a series of telephone conversations made to Jared Kushner – senior advisor to President Donald Trump and Trump’s son-in-law – and National Security Adviser John Bolton regarding the Khashoggi case. The Washington Post explained that:
In recent days, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have reached out to the Trump administration to express support for the crown prince, arguing that he is an important strategic partner in the region, said people familiar with the calls.
Bin Salman has come under intense scrutiny in the month since Khashoggi first disappeared on 2 October, with many suspecting his involvement in ordering the brutal murder. Yet while several world leaders have shunned the crown prince and called for a halt on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Trump has supported the Saudi version of events and refused to sanction the Kingdom.
The murder of Khashoggi, and the ostracisation of Saudi Arabia that has followed, are expected to harm Israel in particular given its recent warming of relations with the kingdom and the latter’s presumed centrality to the long-awaited “Deal of the Century”.
Prominent Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman said in October that “Bin Salman’s vision for the Middle East is a central issue for leaders like Trump and Netanyahu, especially after the increasing Saudi-Israeli cooperation, backed by the US, against Iran, Hezbollah, [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and Jihadists”. Bergman added that: “Bin Salman developed this vision, but his wings are cut now and if he remains in his position, he will be unable to continue his secret steps – offering intelligence services. His tremendous resources would be severely harmed.”
Israeli-Saudi relations have flourished under Bin Salman, with the crown prince openly supporting Israel’s narrative. In April, MBS came under fire for telling a US Jewish group that “in the last several decades the Palestinian leadership has missed one opportunity after the other and rejected all the peace proposals it was given. It is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiation table or shut up and stop complaining”.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman – MBS’ father – was subsequently forced to embark on a period of damage control, naming the 2018 Arab League conference “The Jerusalem Summit” and donating $200 million in aid to the Palestinians. In July, King Salman assured the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Arab world that Saudi Arabia “would not abandon Palestine”.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have also collaborated in targeting dissidents. In October it emerged that Saudi Arabia had used Israeli technology to spy on Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz in Canada. Saudi reportedly used Israel’s “Pegasus” software to tap Abdulaziz’s iPhone, after having previously threatened to arrest his family if he did not stop writing about the kingdom’s conflict with Canada.