Iran-Saudi ties won’t hurt Israeli normalisation bid, official says


Jerusalem (Reuters) – Israel’s bid to normalize ties with Saudi Arabia will not be hurt by Riyadh’s rapprochement with arch-foe Iran, a senior Israeli official was quoted as saying on Friday.

There has been no official response from the Israeli government on the Chinese-brokered restoration of ties announced Friday.

The senior Israeli official was quoted by Israeli diplomatic journalists travelling with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Rome, as saying that the rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran began about a year ago and included reciprocal visits.

Saudi Arabia had felt that the West’s position towards Iran had weakened, the official said. Nonetheless, it would not impact Israel’s bid to establish diplomatic ties with Riyadh, the official said.

The determining factor for Israel was not the formal nature of Saudi-Iran ties but rather the West’s position toward Tehran, the official was quoted by public broadcaster Kan and Reshet 13 News as saying.

Netanyahu has said he wants full diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, expanding on normalisation deals reached with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain on 2020 under U.S. brokership.

Israel and Sunni Muslim Gulf monarchies share concern over Shi’ite Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes and its proxy network. But while Saudi Arabia blessed the UAE and Bahrain pacts, it has stopped short of formally recognising Israel in the absence of a resolution to Palestinian statehood goals.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid called the restoration of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran an “utter and dangerous failure of the Israeli government’s foreign policy.”

After beating centrist Lapid in a Nov. 1 election, Netanyahu returned to power in December at the head of a hard-right government. Lapid had briefly headed a ruling coalition that ousted Netanyahu in a previous election.

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