'The semi-secret security alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel may be expanding into the sphere of ideology and street politics, but Riyadh may be at risk of tripping a conservative Islamist backlash.
The existence of some form of security and intelligence cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel is hardly news for Middle East observers. United by their mutual opposition to Iran and strong ties with the US, the two countries have plenty of things in common. Whatever differences people in the two countries may have over issues like the treatment of Palestinians by Israel, or of gay people by Saudi Arabia, their governments seem to stick to pragmatism in their relations.
This policy goes against the long history of animosity between Arabs and Jews, but is hardly unique for Riyadh. Egypt is another example – while its leaders publicly decry Israel’s policies, they are reportedly all too eager to get a bit of Israeli help to fight Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula. The New York Times described it last week as a two-year-long bombing campaign that allowed Israeli officials to dismiss Egypt behind closed doors for not being able to defend its own territory.
There are some signs that Saudi Arabia may be prepared to expand on its ties with Israel, however, bringing it from a limited tactical union that common Arabs should better not think about, to something bigger. For instance, last month, the head of an influential Saudi-based religious organization sent a letter to a Holocaust museum in Washington, decrying the mass killing of Jews by Nazi Germany and blasting those who would deny those crimes.
The letter was sent by Dr Mohammed Al Issa, secretary general of the Muslim World League, and addressed to Sara Bloomfield, director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The letter’s focus was on criticism of people, who would distort history and deny the gravity of the Holocaust for political reasons – which it compared to distorting religious text to justify terrorism.'
Read More: Riyadh explores anti-Iranian embrace of Israel – but risks 1979-like blowback