A former senior Saudi military general traveled to Israel and met with government officials this week in Saudi Arabia’s latest move to forge relations and ties with Israel despite appearing to be one of its main public critics and branding itself as the defender of Palestine and its people.
Retired General Anwar Eshki, who has held several senior positions in the Saudi government and its military, travelled to Israel with a delegation of academics and business people and met Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major-General Yoav Mordechai, according to a report by Haaretz.
In an interview with Israel’s Army Radio Sunday, Eshki called Palestinian efforts against the occupation “terror” and said that Israel’s actions were behind it.
“To my knowledge, there is no cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia in counter-terrorism efforts, and though they share the same approach in seeking a solution, we want Israel to put an end to what has caused this terrorism.”
He further called Palestinian resistance groups who have broad support within Palestinian society – such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad – “terrorist” groups that are being “exploited” by Iran, according to the Times of Israel.
While the visit was not an official one, given that Eshki isn't a Saudi official, he could not have carried out such meetings without the blessing and the permission of the Saudi monarchy.
"The Saudis want to open up to Israel," Israeli lawmaker Esawi Freige, who met with Eshki Friday, said according to Middle East Eye.
"This is a strategic step for them. They said they want to continue what former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat started. They want to get closer to Israel. This is clearly evident."
While the Saudis and Israelis appear to many to be enemies due to the decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestine, the two in fact agree on many regional issues.
Saudi Arabia and Israel are the two biggest and most important U.S. allies in the region. The two also see Iran as the main threat to their interests in the region and both came out and lobbied for months against the U.S.-led nuclear deal with Tehran.
Also, Saudi Arabia sees the Muslims Brotherhood – which is connected to Hamas – as a terrorist organization, which is in line with how Israel views both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Reports also suggest that the two countries are keen on expanding their military ties, which remains largely behind closed doors despite being an open secret in the region. In March it was suggested that the kingdom had purchased drones from Israel via South Africa.