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Former Mossad chief says Saudi-Israeli normalization possible despite Iran-Saudi deal

Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen speaks at a conference in Jerusalem, Feb. 21, 2022. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Former Israeli Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen believes that political normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel is still possible, despite the recent Saudi-Iranian détente deal.

Addressing a conference hosted by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Cohen said normalization between Jerusalem and Riyadh “is needed and is possible.”

“There are courageous leaders on both sides who know how to get to normalization,” according to the former Intelligence and Special Operations chief.

Cohen assessed that the recent changes in Middle Eastern dynamics could eventually facilitate normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

"There are things happening at the bilateral level that do not necessarily impact the State of Israel,” he explained.

“If the negotiations are conducted properly, with the backing of the United States, with certain statements being made regarding the Palestinians but no policy actions taken, then practically it is possible,” Cohen added. “There is indeed a new era of assertive leaders in the Middle East, like the President of the United Arab Emirates Mohamed bin Zayed, the Moroccan king, and the Bahraini king – something big and important can be created with them.”

In March, Saudi Arabia announced it would restore its diplomatic relations with its regional arch rival Iran following years of strained ties between the two key Middle East nations. China played a central role in realizing the diplomatic breakthrough between the Saudis and the Iranians. At the time, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett lamented the Iranian-Saudi deal as a blow to regional peacebuilding and a united front against the ayatollah regime.

However, the former chief of Israel’s military intelligence unit believes the Iranian-Saudi deal could indicate to Washington that Saudi Arabia is prepared to seek alternative alliances with regional and world powers apart from the United States, if the Biden administration continues to condemn Saudi Arabia for its dismal human rights record.

Cohen believes that any Saudi-Israeli normalization process will be slow in coming due to the status of Saudi Arabia in the Muslim world as the custodian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

“They need to always check the temperature about whether the Muslim world will forgive them,” he said.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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