By Eliezer Sherman
Israel has remained uncharacteristically silent amid several reports over the past few days signalling increased arms purchases by Egypt and Gulf countries.
According to a Foreign Policy report published on Wednesday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is not attempting to lobby Washington over what will likely be a huge arms transfer from the U.S. to Gulf countries, over fears of an expanding Iran.
“Israelis have been silent [about the arms deals to Gulf countries],” one congressional aide familiar with the issue told Foreign Policy. “Aipac was asking a lot of questions, but I wouldn’t characterize our interaction on this as lobbying.”
In addition, the Egyptian purchase of the advanced s-300 Russian missile defense system was of little concern to Israel because it doesn’t see hostility from its southern neighbor.
“We don’t see Egypt as the enemy,” an Israeli official told Reuters on Thursday, and an official in Cairo said Israel has nothing to fear.
“Israel has seen an opening with the Sunni Gulf states which has been very important, and with Egyptian President [Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi,” who opposes Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood,” said John Landis, associate professor and director for the Center of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
Still, “Israel is engaged in a very realpolitik world,” Landis told the Algemeiner. “Most of the people that it’s working with don’t like it, don’t believe that Jews should be in the Middle East.”
So as Riyadh’s weapons imports continue to expand – they jumped 54% between 2013 and 2014 – the gain for Israel may be temporary.
“Saudi Arabia is a threat to Israel … the ideology it espouses … is equally antithetical to recognizing a Jewish state in Palestine,” said Landis.
Meanwhile on Thursday President Barack Obama opened a summit at Camp David with leaders from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies, to discuss the threat of expanding Iranian regional influence, the rise of Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, as well as the front against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
US deputy national security adviser for strategic communication Ben Rhodes told reporters that the president updated the leaders on negotiations with Iran to restrict its nuclear program and Iran’s “destabilizing actions in the region.”