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Retired Saudi general leads delegation to Israel, in latest sign of growing Jerusalem-Riyadh ties

Posted by Tip Staff - July 22, 2016


 

A retired Saudi general visited Israel this week for a series of meetings, in what is the latest sign of increasing dialogue, public appearances, and quiet cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Anwar Eshki, who previously served in senior positions in the Saudi military and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed a delegation of Saudi academics and businessmen to Israel. They met with Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold; IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories; and opposition Knesset members, including Yair Lapid, the chairman of the Yesh Atid party. Haaretz diplomatic reporter Barak Ravid noted that the visit was “highly unusual” and must have been approved by the Saudi government.
Public conversations between Israeli and Saudi figures have been increasingly frequent and visible in recent months. Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror and former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal engaged in a public discussion on regional issues at an event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in May. Although the two former officials differed on the Mideast peace process, both emphasized the threat posed by Iran. That same month, officials from Israel and Saudi Arabia revealed that representatives from their countries had been engaging in secret meetings since 2014 to discuss Iran’s threat to the region. At an event in June 2015 at the Council on Foreign Relations, Eshki and Gold discussed their shared concern about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and its regional aggression. And in May 2014, Faisal met with Israel’s former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.
As part of an agreement with Egypt to reclaim two Red Sea islands that it had once controlled—a move approved by Israel, whose shipping capabilities could have been affected—Saudi Arabia vowed to honor the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, which guarantees Israel full maritime passage rights in the Red Sea and through the Straits of Tiran. Experts from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies argued in a white paper after the agreement was reached that “the very fact that Saudi Arabia now undertakes to uphold in practice the obligations assumed by Egypt under the peace treaty means that Israel’s place in the region is no longer perceived by Arab leader Saudi Arabia as an anomaly to be corrected.”

 

The speaker of Iran’s parliament said that his nation must confront the United States and that his country should prepare “a plan for the launch of a nuclear plant for enrichment,” Iranian media reported on Wednesday.Speaker Ali Larijani said that his parliament “is warning the US administration and its House of Representatives and Senate that injurious measures against the nuclear agreement have reached such a point that there is no way left for Iran but to counteract. It is necessary that the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as per the law, prepares a plan for the launch of a nuclear plant for enrichment in grades needed in the country and keeps [the parliament] posted.”
Iran is limited to 5,060 centrifuges enriching uranium at the Natanz facility for the duration of the nuclear deal.
Larijani also blasted United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, saying that Ban’s recent criticism of Iran’s actions would be his “free fall.” Ban issued a report earlier this month that called Iran’s continued ballistic missile tests “not consistent with the constructive spirit demonstrated by the signing” of the nuclear deal. Iran has held nineballistic missile tests since the deal was signed lat year, despite the fact that the UN Security Council resolution implementing the deal called on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
Larijani’s criticism of the United States was likely a reference to Senate efforts to extendthe Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, which would allow future presidents to impose sanctions on Iran if it is found to be violating the deal.
Despite Iranian complaints that it has not received enough benefits from the deal, a study last month showed that Iran’s economy was on track to expand by four percent annually for the next five years as a result of sanctions relief. According to Iranian documents, the nation’s military spending is to increase 90 percent in the next year. Terrorism expert Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote earlier this month that Iran’s support for terror has increased significantly since the deal was signed. (via TheTower.org)

 
Hollywood actor James Caan – best known for his role in The Godfather as hot-tempered Sonny Corleone – is in Israel on a five-day visit. Caan posed for the cameras at the Western Wall this morning, wrapping teffilin (phylacteries) and placing a note in the cracks of the ancient stones. Caan, the son of German Jewish immigrants to the US, is in Israel as a guest of the Ministry of Tourism and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His short visit will include a meeting with Israeli university students and faculty, a visit to a special IDF unit, and taking a flight above the country’s skyline. Caan will also dine at some of the country’s best culinary hot spots and visit award-winning wineries. (via Israel21c)

 


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