Alwaght- With Donald J. Trump's victory in the US presidential election and his entry to the White House, one of the issues that needs to be taken into account is the influence his rise to power can leave on the Arab world, including the Israeli regime’s ties with the Arab countries, and particularly with the Persian Gulf states.
During his election campaign, Trump blasted the Persian Gulf Arab states' policies especially Saudi Arabia among others, maintaining that his country supports the Saudis and so they certainly have to pay the cost of such a backing. But when Trump came out winner of the presidential race, the initial reaction of the Persian Gulf states was congratulation messages which began pouring in from the Arab leaders to the president-elect.
Trump’s criticism of Saudi Arabia was expressive of the fact that what the Arab countries, and noticeably Riyadh, could not take from the outgoing President Barack Obama cannot be taken from the incoming president.
During his campaign Trump has implied that the US should milk the fat Saudi Arabia as much as possible, and when the wealthy sheikhs become useless it should abandon the Middle-East.
During the Obama presidency, Washington benefited from the Saudi-trained armed takfirist groups to materialize its interests in countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. But during the Trump’s administration, the US interests could see some changes, because the new president is well aware that part of the factors that helped him win the White House were linked to his rightist stances and tendencies including his tough postures against the radical Islamist groups. This comes while inflow of Muslim refugee to the US was a natural outcome of support offered to the extremist groups by the Western countries.
Trump's lashing out at Saudi Arabia can also be observed from a different angle: the Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, during Trump’s presidency will shift to the Israeli regime, a strategic ally of the US in West Asia region, in a bid to save their bonds with Washington. In fact, they think that normalization of diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv makes a guarantee for continuation of their relations with Washington under Trump’s administration.
Influenced by the developments that have been shaking the region in the past few years as well as the volatility in the oil prices in the global markets, the Persian Gulf Arab states, topped by the Saudi kingdom, are seeking ways to keep closeness to the US. One of these ways is moving close to the Israeli regime, because they are well aware that at the time being there is no alternative choice. Egypt, which can take role of a linking ring between Riyadh and Washington, is in a state of escalation with Saudi Arabia.
The chill that is hitting the relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia majorly comes from policies of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt in dealing with Syria’s developments and his backing for President Bashar al-Assad. On the other side, Turkey cannot be counted on as an option that can make a reconciliation between the Saudi rulers and Trump, because it is yet to be clear how Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan want to get along, especially now that Trump has decided to label Muslim Brotherhood movement, which is bankrolled and politically backed by Ankara and Erdogan in person, a terrorist group.
In such circumstances that the Arab sheikhdoms and Saudi Arabia find no further choices that can push them to proximity to the incoming US president, the only choice is Tel Aviv, which in past few years held a multitude of overt connections with the Arab leaders. Saudi diplomats like the retired army General Anwar Eshki and Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, acted influentially to strengthen Saudi-Israeli contacts. But such an Arab proximity to Tel Aviv and the latter’s role playing will bring about costs for the Arab countries. The basic cost will be a normalization of Tel Aviv-Arab relations.
Meanwhile, a set of developments will be signaling closeness between the Israelis and the Arabs at the time of Trump. Among them the following can be referred to.
1. When an anti-Israeli resolution was planned to be proposed to the United Nations Security Council to condemn the Israeli settlements in West Bank and Al-Quds (Jerusalem), Egypt was named to be among the UNSC members to raise the proposal in a session. But a phone call from Donald Trump to el-Sisi was enough to press the Egyptian President to back down from Egyptian intention to join the anti-Israeli UNSC measure. The retreat received a positive response from the Israeli regime’s government. Tel Aviv called the Egyptian retreat a sign indicating Tel Aviv-Cairo closeness and their firm mutual relations.
2. In recent days, a visit to Bahrain by an Israeli commercial delegation and its meetings with top figures from the Persian Gulf Arab states drew multiple reactions. It was branded a “step” toward diplomatic normalization between Manama and Tel Aviv. Some sources suggested that a number of members of this Israeli delegation were agents operating for the Mossad, the Israeli spy service.
3. Sheikh Ali Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, the president of the Bahrain Football Association, has announced that a delegation representing the Israeli Football Association will take part in meetings of the FIFA Congress set to be held on May 11, 2017, in the capital Manama. The Bahraini official has said his own justifications to paint the visit as not being very sensitive.
He said: “certainly Bahrain’s hosting of the FIFA Congress is more significant than visit of Bahrain by three members of the Israeli Football Association. We always see the glass half full, and clearly it is not just us to separate politics from sports.”
4. Finally, an Arab thaw with the Israeli regime is one of the Tel Aviv’s hopes for the Trump’s presidency term. Ayub Kara, the deputy minister of regional cooperation of the Israeli regime, has mentioned the fresh joint work between the Israeli regime and Jordan, announcing that very soon representatives from the World Bank will visit the port city of Eilat to study financing a project for building a bridge that connects the Israel city to Jordan’s Aqaba Port.
Commenting on the future of relations between the Israeli regime and Saudi Arabia, the Israeli official said that he will travel to Saudi Arabia in 2017 after official entry of Trump to the White House. He said that in these conditions, the Saudis need Tel Aviv. He at the same asserted that now that a president other than Obama leads the White House, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Israeli regime could even visit Riyadh.
So although for a long time the region’s Arab states had half-overt half-covert relations with the Israeli regime, in the current situation it is likely that the Arabs will boost ties with Tel Aviv with a consideration of the Arab camp’s isolation in the region and Saudi Arabia's and its allies' use of Tel Aviv as a tool to get closer to Trump. This issue not only bolsters diplomatic relations between them but also will serve to pave the way for enhanced ties of the Arab countries with Trump.