Iran Deal

Saudi-Israeli Diplomacy After the Iran Deal?

By Benjamin Bissell
Friday, July 24, 2015, 2:37 PM

If Twitter is to be believed, the Iranian nuclear deal is already creating waves in the Middle East and upending old regional axes. Earlier today, Jacky Hugi, the Middle East editor for Israel’s Army Radio, posted a picture of a Mercedes with diplomatic license plates driving around Tel Aviv. Unremarkable, until you realize which country the car was supposedly representing: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

While the tags appear to be real, we should not be too quick to speculate what this means. Still, the sighting of the car is curious in light of the observed tightening of relations recently between Israel and its erstwhile enemy, Saudi Arabia. While the two countries publicly remain distant, leaders on both sides, but especially in Tel Aviv, have hinted at the unusual and significant confluence of interests between the two in recent months over their shared archenemy: Iran. And it is widely known that both are apprehensive, to say the least, over the recently-inked deal between Tehran and the G5+1.

That said, in recent days, both countries have responded publicly to the deal in very different ways. From Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his deputies have railed against the deal and implored the U.S. Congress to halt it. Saudi officials, by contrast, have been more reticent to comment openly. However, according to US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who visited the kingdom recently, the Saudi government is beginning to look on the deal more favorably. Additionally, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stated on July 23 that the deal “generally seems to have achieved” several objectives, including effective inspections and the possibility of resumed sanctions in the case of an Iranian violation.

Whether Israel and Saudi Arabia are as hostile to the deal as some analysts suggest, or whether the two are moving apart on the issue, remains anyone’s guess. In the meantime, only time will tell what exactly that Mercedes, and whoever was in it, was doing in Tel Aviv.