Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The New Middle East:The Gulf Monarchies and Israel

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The New Middle East:The Gulf Monarchies and Israel

Article excerpt

The recent war in Iraq will have long-range strategic ramifications on the Middle East. Following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime the Bush administration introduced the so-called road map, which seeks to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. These political developments underscore the connection between the geo-politics of the Persian Gulf and the Arab-Israeli conflict. This study examines the Gulf monarchies' policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict. Particular attention is given to the Saudi leading role in the Arab oil embargo in 1973 and the Saudi peace plans of 1981 and 2002. Finally, the study discusses the limited diplomatic relations between Israel and two Gulf monarchies (Oman and Qatar).

Key Words: Israel, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Egypt, America, Oman, Yemen, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Gulf monarchy, oil, water technology, Jew, Arab, Zionism, Muslim, Cold War, communist, Wahhabis.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established through an alliance between the Saudi dynasty and religious zealots known as Muwahhiduns, Unitarians, or Wahhabis. This alliance was forged in the early eighteenth century and has persisted until today. In formulating their stand on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Saudi policy-makers have tried to accommodate pressures from opposite directions. First, the kingdom holds approximately one-fourth of world's proven oil reserves and is the world's largest oil producer and exporter. Little wonder, the Arabs have long debated the use of this strategic commodity in their struggle against Israel and its major ally: the United States. With one significant exception - the Arab oil embargo that followed the outbreak of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war - Saudi leaders have adamantly resisted mixing oil and policy.

Second, since its creation as a nation state in 1932, Saudi Arabia has confronted serious threats from more populous and powerful regional states such as Nasser of Egypt, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Given the kingdom's limited military capability, in comparison with these three regional powers, Riyadh was not able to defend itself. Instead, a major component of the country's security strategy has been a reliance on the United States. Considering Saudi Arabia's massive oil resources and its prominent role in global energy markets, Washington has, always demonstrated firm commitment to the security of Saudi Arabia. This close strategic cooperation between Washington and Riyadh has always been a major source of tension and embarrassment for the Saudi royal family in both the Arab and Islamic worlds. Right to the point, the dilemma facing the Saudi policy-makers has been how to explain their close cooperation with the United States, Israel's closest ally.

The massive hydrocarbon wealth, the strong religious legitimacy of the Saudi regime and the close cooperation with the United States have all shaped the kingdom's approach to the Middle East conflict. Four basic characteristics of the Saudi stand on the Arab-Israeli dispute can be identified. First, during the Cold War, Saudi officials sought to underscore the early association between Zionism and the socialist ideology and the communist political backing it received in the initial stages of Israel's creation.2 Furthermore, the Saudis claimed that Israel was largely responsible for the entry of the Soviet Union into the Middle East. They argued that Israel's military victory in the 1948 war substantially contributed to the collapse of conservative governments and the rise of radical forms of Pan-Arabism in several key Arab states such as Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. In addition, the displaced Palestinians became a radicalizing force in Arab politics. This political environment, the argument goes, facilitated Soviet penetration of the Middle East and put pro-Western regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, on the defensive. Second, Saudi attitude toward Israel is also shaped by religious and cultural factors. …

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