Israeli military chief has said his country is prepared for a close cooperation, including sharing intelligence, with "moderate" Arab states like Saudi Arabia in order to rein in Iran. His statement has provided another dramatic twist to the rapidly changing political environment in the Middle East.
In what has been described as an "unprecedented" interview to a Saudi newspaper, the Arabic language Elaph, General Gadi Eizenkot said Tehran remains the "biggest threat to the region" and hence, Israel would even offer intelligence-sharing operation with Riyadh if both can jointly stand up to Iran. He said both Israel and Saudi Arabia share a common interest against Tehran.
Both the Shia-oriented Iran and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, two regional powerhouses with clashing ideologies, share a fractious relationship due to a power struggle over a series of religio-political issues such as the way Islam is interpreted, the Islamic world's leadership and oil exports.
However, Israel does not have any diplomatic relations with the ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia but there have been indications in the recent past that the two are edging closer so as to challenge their common adversary – Iran.
Yet, this is the first time a top Israeli authority is sending out a public message, which is even more striking, given the ongoing churning taking place in the Saudi monarchy with the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman quickly rising to power.
"We are ready to exchange experiences with Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab countries and exchange intelligence information to confront Iran," said Eizenkot, the chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). "There are many shared interests between us and Saudi Arabia."
He also threw hints that the two powers should capitalise on the presence of the Trump administration, which has been fiercely sceptical of Iran, saying: "Under US President Donald Trump there is an opportunity to form a new international alliance in the region. We need to carry out a large, comprehensive strategic plan to stop the Iranian threat." He also added that Israel has no plans to attack the Lebanese Shia militant group, Hezbollah.
In the past several days, the Middle East region has been witnessing an array of dramatic events centred on Saudi Arabia – a missile attack on Riyadh, widespread anti-corruption purge affecting princes and ministers, a theatrical resignation announcement by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and an unannounced visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Saudi Arabia.