Most of us have heard of the Houthis from news reports, but few of us know who they are, where they come from and why they don’t like Jews.
To begin with, they are an Iranian-backed insurgency group that lives in Yemen and identify as the minority Zaydi Shiite Muslim sect which gained strength as a result of the 2011 Arab Spring. Up until now, the Houthis have concentrated their efforts of hatred on their greatest enemies: Saudi Arabia and America, which has traditionally sided with Israel.
Characterized as puppets for the Iranian regime, it’s not surprising that they would be enlisted to join the battle to wipe out the Jewish state, but how could that play out? It was only a couple of weeks ago that they “launched drones and missiles targeting Israel which were intercepted by a US warship in the Red Sea.”
A repeat performance was carried out on Oct. 27, resulting in their drones and projectiles landing in Egypt. It wasn’t until Oct. 31 that the city of Eilat heard the sound of sirens, causing everyone to understand just how vulnerable the southernmost resort city, known for its bustling tourism, actually was.
But what is their endgame? It’s basically a Hamas “copy-paste.” Houthis are committed to eradicating both Israel and America, as voiced in their official slogan, which calls for “death to America, death to Israel and curse the Jews.” They, too, believe in the latest rant, “From the river to the sea,” meaning that they’re eyeing all of Israel as the prize. No illusions of two states or the 1967 borders. It’s the whole pie and not just a slice.
Given that the Houthi religion is one that is much more focused on militancy, it’s not unusual that it views the Jewish state as an affront to Islam, which must be completely eliminated. In fact, their religion seems solely dedicated to death for the Jews, Israel and any supporters of the two, because there is no mention anywhere of spiritual values being central to their faith.
Iran has found these willing fighters useful on two fronts. First of all, they provide an excellent opportunity for Iranians to test their own weapons from Yemen, rather than their own country. And secondly, they are on standby if needed as reinforcements for Hamas terrorists. In addition, they also come in handy where the United States is concerned because their added involvement could serve to widen the Middle East conflict if the U.S. decides to make its own response to the 27 attacks that have been made against American assets, thus far.
With no Hamas condemnation from China and Russia, as well as Iranian support from Turkey, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, it’s easy to see how Israel and the U.S. stand alone in what is shaping up to be an almost unavoidable showdown.
That is especially where the added threats of the Houthis could turn this war into a much greater conflict than anyone ever expected. The question is, 'Where does Saudi Arabia see itself in all of this?' It wasn’t so long ago that the Houthis were shooting off missiles at them. Prior to Oct. 7, Israel sought to normalize relations with the Saudis, an aspiration of the Abraham Accords, which was put on pause when the Biden administration took over.
But once Iran decided it was in their best interest to court the Saudis, their overtures were, surprisingly, not rebuffed. With a little help from Iran’s friend, China, they were able to step in and repair “seven years of severed ties,” announcing that they would “reopen embassies and missions within two months and implement security and economic cooperation agreements signed more than 20 years ago.”
In short, just as Israel was about to make its move and declare herself, Iran beat us to the finish, flashing a multi-carat, sparkling diamond ring in order to seal the marriage deal. And why wouldn’t the Saudis accept? Repairing relations with Iran would take care of any Houthi threat against them, not to mention the real fear of Iranian nuclear weapons, which was a main motivating consideration in an Israeli-Saudi alliance.
However, at the moment, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is cleverly playing his cards very close to his chest. Likely hedging his bets, he probably wants to see how the war effort will proceed and which side appears to be making gains. He, of all people, knows just how dicey things could get if Iranian intervention wins the day. For now, MBS probably feels like the lucky girl at the prom over whom two guys are fighting, and while that may seem to be an enviable position in which to find oneself, it is not without its own peril.
Because if Iran were to succeed in causing serious harm to Israel, Saudi Arabia might discover that an Iranian pact is not without its hefty cost. They would be in the driver’s seat to demand whatever they want at that point, which is probably why the Saudis are doing their best to calm the storm by calling for a ceasefire and the de-escalating of tensions.” But knowing that they still are obliged to align with the “right” ethnic side, they have also expressed “their unwavering stance in standing up for the Palestinian cause.”
Unquestionably, it is in the best interest of Saudi Arabia not to tangle with the Houthis, especially since they have now found a more formidable opponent in Israel. This is one commonality between America and Israel – their shared hope of avoiding a conflict with these Yemeni warriors. In that effort, Israeli forces have “deployed missile boats in the Red Sea as reinforcements, a day after the Iran-aligned Houthi movement said it had launched missile and drone attacks on Israel and vowed to carry out more.”
So, let’s recap. The Houthis didn’t particularly like the Saudis. They hate Israel and America, and they love Iran. Iran hates Israel and America, now likes the Saudis and loves the Houthis. Saudi Arabia is skeptical of Israel and America, hates the Houthis and is allowing itself to be courted by Iran as a safe measure.
All in all, Israel can’t necessarily count on America which is loath to find itself an active participant in a third world war. Nor can it count on the Saudis, who are fair-weather friends at best, and, at worst, loyal comrades to their Arab counterparts who they probably expect to win the battle against the tiny Jewish country of Israel.
But here’s what they haven’t calculated into the mix. The God of Israel has promised: “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deut. 1:30 and Joshua 1:5).
So, while the Houthis may want to join this raucous party, God just may have a surprise in store for them, by seeing to it that they end up leaving much earlier than they anticipated!
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.