April 3, 2009:
Saudi Arabia, and most Arab nations, are coming around to viewing Israel as an ally and tolerable neighbor. The Saudi royal family has always been very practical, and willing to take risks. One of their current risky behaviors is pointing out, to their fellow Arabs, how destructive internal conflicts are for the Arab world. Then there is the admission that the obsession with Israel has brought the Arabs more harm than good. Increasingly, Arabs are advocating an old practice in the region, "if you can't beat them, join them."
Israel has been doing a lot more business with the Arab world. But it has to be kept quiet, and discreet, because any Arab demagogue can easily use such activities to gather a lynch mob. This under the table trading has been going on for decades, but now, every Arab leader knows about it, and the long range benefits of doing more of it. The problem is, how do you get the genie (decades of anti-Semitic propaganda) back in the bottle.
What's driving this move towards Israel's welcoming arms (pun intended), is growing fear of Iran, and disgust at the self-destructive and incompetent politics of the Palestinians. For sixty years, the Arab world had been united in their support of the Palestinian (a nationality created in the 1960s) efforts to destroy Israel, and replace it with a Palestinian state. Most Arab leaders no longer believe that the Palestinians are capable of negotiating a deal with the Israelis, or even running their own state, should they get one.
Arab leaders are also more afraid of Islamic terrorism and Iranian aggression, than they are of Israel. It's been noted by Arab businessmen that Israel has provided more technology and peace for the region than anyone else. The Palestinians have been disruptive, and now one Palestinian faction (Hamas) has become the ally of Iran. Saudi citizens, who are forbidden from visiting Israel, are increasingly discovering that many of the novel irrigation techniques used in the kingdom came from Israel. This knowledge is often found via the Internet, as well as a lot of other forbidden information about Israel.
Israel has been quick to make the most of these changing attitudes. For decades, secret meetings have been held between Israeli and Arab government officials. Deals have been made, usually informal and secret ones. There has been cooperation in intelligence matters, especially regarding counter-terrorism.
The big obstacle is the sixty years of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic propaganda Arab states have been spewing. This stuff is still coming, although several Arab states have quietly reduced the volume and vehemence. Arab states have been more vigorously leaning on the Palestinians to make peace, knowing that this would quickly lower the toxicity level of Middle Eastern anti-Semitism. But Hamas has stopped progress in peace negotiations, and made that worse by using Iranian help to do it. The more reasonable Palestinian faction, Fatah, is hopelessly corrupt, and politically inept as well. The Arab states are as frustrated as the Israelis are with the "Palestinian situation." In fact, many Arabs are coming to see the "Israeli problem" as actually the "Palestinian problem." The Israelis are willing to deal, but the Palestinians either aren't, or can't, or won't.
Many Palestinians see Iran as an ally, given their loud calls for Israel to be destroyed. This provides many Israelis, who favor bombing Iranian nuclear weapons research facilities, with an additional argument. They suggest that, if Israeli aircraft and missiles did hit Iran, Arab leaders might take that as an opportunity to praise Israel for striking a blow at a common enemy. That is, in reality, a fact. But, in theory, an Israeli attack on Iran is also an attack on a Moslem nation. That, however, runs head-on into the growing theological dispute between Sunni Islam (led by Saudi Arabia) and Shia Islam (led by Iran). Thus if Israeli bombs did hit Iran, the Arab reaction would be far more meaningful, and unpredictable, than the Iranian one.