News of the rapprochement between long-time regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran sent shock waves through the Middle East on Saturday and dealt a symbolic blow to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made the threat posed by Tehran a public diplomacy priority and personal crusade.
The breakthrough — a culmination of more than a year of negotiations in Baghdad and more recent talks in China — also became ensnared in Israel’s internal politics, reflecting the country’s divisions at a moment of national turmoil.
The agreement, which gives Iran and Saudi Arabia two months to reopen their respective embassies and re-establish ties after seven years of rupture, more broadly represents one of the most striking shifts in Middle Eastern diplomacy over recent years. In countries like Yemen and Syria, long caught between the Sunni kingdom and the Shiite powerhouse, the announcement stirred cautious optimism.
In Israel, it caused disappointment — along with finger-pointing.
One of Netanyahu’s greatest foreign policy triumphs remains Israel’s U.S.-brokered normalization deals in 2020 with four Arab states, including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. They were part of a wider push to isolate and oppose Iran in the region. [Continue reading…]