US and Israeli officials “have expressed concern” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman “may have less leeway to pursue the gradual warming of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours”, following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, reported the Washington Post.
According to the paper, US President Donald Trump’s chief Mideast envoy, son-in-law Jared Kushner, “has discussed with diplomats and others how the crown prince’s position might affect US plans”.
The Post observed how “Israeli officials have become more vocal about separating the killing from the kingdom’s strategic value.”
“What happened in the Istanbul consulate was horrendous and it should be duly dealt with,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday.
“Yet at the same time, I say that it is very important for the stability of the world, of the region and of the world, that Saudi Arabia remain stable.”
“We should not allow an action like that to go unanswered,” the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, told an audience last week, referring to Khashoggi’s killing. “But we also have to be careful about not throwing away a relationship that has strategic value.”
“I think the administration, when they know all the facts, are going to have to decide, how can they on the one hand make clear that this action is unacceptable, but also not throw out the prince with the bathwater, let’s put it that way,” he added.
Bin Salman, the paper reported, “has been the leading figure in a tentative and risky strategy to become more open about tacit or secret Israeli-Saudi cooperation”, adding that US officials had “hoped that he could also be the pivot point for a new, transactional Arab relationship with Israel that would undergird the Trump peace programme”.
“The Israeli perception is that MBS is much better for their own purposes,” a Saudi government official told the paper. Meanwhile an Israeli government official “said Saudi Arabia is already playing a main role by allowing or encouraging small diplomatic steps over the past month”.
According to the Israeli official, Riyadh has sent signals to Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain condoning diplomatic overtures to Israel.
All the current steps between Israel and especially Gulf states wouldn’t have been possible without the backing of the Saudis.
“And the change of mind inside the Saudi has, from our perspective, a lot to do with MBS. He did open the door for more visible and official relationships with countries in the region”.
A foreign diplomat cited by the Post said that while Bin Salman was supposed to be a key figure in the Trump administration’s regional approach, “MBS is not going to do the heavy lifting expected before now, and they [US officials] are deciding what to do next”.