Israeli leaders have responded to the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, praising him for contributing to Middle East peace and stability.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called Abdullah was “an example of balanced and responsible leadership rooted in deep religious tradition.” As a “guardian of holy sites” for Islam, King Abdullah “worked to honor the sensitivity and sanctity of Jerusalem and sought to promote his vision for a prosperous region,” Rivlin said.
“His smart policy contributed greatly to Middle East stability,” added Rivlin.
Former Israeli president Shimon Peres said Abdullah’s death is a setback for peace in the region.
“The death of His Majesty the King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah is a real loss for peace in the Middle East,” Peres said. “I’m not sure we could have accepted all the items in this peace process but the spirit, the strength and the wisdom invested in it impressed all of us.”
In 2002, Abdullah proposed the Arab Peace Initiative, which was an attempt to end the Arab-Israeli conflict and bring about normalization between Israel and the Arab world. The plan called for Israel’s complete withdrawal from the disputed territories and a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee issue based on U.N. Resolution 194.
But Abdullah’s plan was overshadowed at the time by the terrorism of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising), and many Israeli leaders remain skeptical of the plan.
Despite both nations being close allies of the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia have never had formal diplomatic ties. Nevertheless, in recent years there have been rumors that Israel and Saudi Arabia have covertly cooperated on plans to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. More recently, Israeli and Saudi interests have also aligned on combating the growing threat of Sunni Muslim terrorist groups such as the Islamic State and Muslim Brotherhood.