Longtime rivals and regional foes Saudi Arabia and Iran have reconciled, shocking the Middle East on Saturday and dealing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a symbolic blow.
Netanyahu has made countering Tehran’s threat a top focus in his public diplomacy efforts and a personal crusade.
The breakthrough, the result of more than a year’s worth of talks in Baghdad and more recent discussions in Beijing, was also caught up in Israeli politics, reflecting the country’s differences during significant turbulence in the world.
One of the most notable changes in Middle Eastern diplomacy in recent years is represented by the accord, which gives Iran and Saudi Arabia two months to rebuild their respective embassies and restore relations after a seven-year break.
The decision inspired cautious optimism in nations like Yemen and Syria, long stuck between the Sunni kingdom and the Shiite behemoth.
It resulted in dissatisfaction and blame-casting in Israel.
The normalization agreements Israel reached with four Arab nations, including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, in 2020 remain one of Netanyahu’s most significant foreign policy achievements.
They were part of a more considerable effort to challenge Iran in the area and to isolate it.
He has presented himself as the leader equipped to defend Israel from Tehran’s rapidly expanding nuclear program and its regional allies, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israel and Iran have also been engaged in a covert regional conflict, which has resulted in, among other things, alleged Iranian drone strikes on ships with ties to Israel that are transporting products in the Persian Gulf.
Netanyahu’s top priority would be realized through a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia, the most powerful and affluent Arab nation, which would fundamentally alter the region and elevate Israel’s stature.
Saudi Arabia has claimed it won’t formally recognize Israel until the long-running Israeli-Palestinian problem has been resolved, even though backdoor relations between the two countries have improved.
Since he returned to the office late last year, Netanyahu and his friends have suggested that a deal with the kingdom may be on the horizon.
A peace deal is “a goal that we are working on in conjunction to stop Iran,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech to American Jewish leaders last month.
Yet, according to experts, those plans have been dashed by the Saudi-Iran agreement that was announced on Friday.
Israel is mainly acting alone in the campaign to diplomatically isolate Iran and its nuclear facilities due to Saudi Arabia’s decision to cooperate with its opponent in the area. In the past year, Iran and the UAE also reestablished diplomatic ties.