Benjamin Netanyahu has made no secret of his concern over the fate of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman in the wake of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. According to the Washington Post, the Israeli Prime Minister intervened with the US administration in order to relieve some of the pressure on the prince. Netanyahu also stated publically in Budapest that the US must maintain the stability of Saudi Arabia under the [de facto] leadership of Bin Salman.
Of course, Netanyahu's defence of Bin Salman is not born out of love, but rather a desire to use him in order to promote Israel's objectives in the region. The most important of these are to confront Iran, pass the "deal of the century", normalisation with the Kingdom at a later stage and the elimination of political Islam. Since the rise of Bin Salman, Israel has sought to invest in him as he represents a golden opportunity with regards to achieving the aforementioned objectives. This is exactly what the Zionist state did five years ago with Egypt's General — now President — Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi who had, and still has, unlimited Israeli support, especially in Washington's decision-making circles.
Netanyahu understands that Bin Salman is in desperate need of the US, not only to secure his ascension to the throne, but also to stay there and set himself up as a new leader for the region in the manner that he himself referred to at the economic conference in Riyadh last week. The Crown Prince's fantasy even went as far as imagining himself as the Alexander of the Arabs who will steer the Middle East towards urbanisation and European modernity. Bin Salman also believes that he will be a new founder of the Kingdom or, as his supporters call it, Greater Saudi Arabia. This means gaining support and backing at any cost, even if it comes via Tel Aviv.
Hence, reports of Bin Salman resorting to Netanyahu to ask for his support in Washington to ease the pressure on him regarding Khashoggi's murder are no real surprise. The Israeli leader duly wasted no time in backing the Saudi Prince, whitewashing his image and promoting him as the cornerstone of stability in the region. He has made it look as if Bin Salman's removal will lead to the collapse of the Kingdom and its fragmentation; as if Saudi Arabia's fate is entirely dependent on the fate of this reckless young man.
Israel under Netanyahu, along with some Arab rulers, is investing in the ambitious prince who is doing everything he can to secure the throne, even if that means an alliance with Satan himself. Zionists across the Middle East are well aware that Bin Salman represents a golden opportunity that may not be repeated to weaken the Kingdom and control its decision-making process, as has happened with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed. He extended his influence after taking over most of the duties of the President of the UAE, his older brother Khalifa Bin Zayed, due to the latter's ill health, and went on to persuade Bin Salman to eradicate possible threats to his route to the throne in Saudi Arabia. This resulted in him replacing Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef Al Saud as Crown Prince in June 2017. Bin Nayef was relieved of all duties by a decree issued by Bin Salman's father, the current Saudi King.
It is no secret that Bin Salman and Bin Zayed — "MBS" and "MBZ" respectively — are the spearheads of Israel's project to reshape the region in a manner that serves its strategic interests, completely ignoring the interests of the Arab people and states. They are convinced that Israel is an important ally that must be trusted more than any other regional party, and are backed in this by Bahrain, whose Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa praised Netanyahu's remarks regarding Bin Salman a few days ago. This has allowed Netanyahu to be open in defending them as a strategic treasure for Israel that should not be wasted. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi is seen as a departure from the script in relation to the new Riyadh-Abu Dhabi-Manama-Tel Aviv alliance which has disturbed their calculations, creating a dilemma from which they are now trying to escape.
While many of Bin Salman's allies are stepping back and rethinking their relationship with Riyadh in the light of Khashoggi's assassination, Netanyahu is throwing him a lifebelt in order to avoid losing him. This does not appear to be a problem for the Saudi elites, who may now see Netanyahu as a regional ally to be trusted.
May the Almighty have mercy on Jamal Khashoggi, whose assassination has exposed many matters that were previously secret and taking place behind closed doors; they are now as clear as day for all to see.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 5 November 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.