Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council: New Opportunities for Cooperation?

By Joshua Teitelbaum
Submitted to Session P3643 (Israel, the United States and a Changing Middle East, 2014 Annual Meeting
Arabian Peninsula;
Gulf Studies;
The nuclear agreement signed with Iran on November 24, 2013, drew criticism from both Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), led by Saudi Arabia. The press speculated that Saudi Arabia and Israel - the most important US allies in the regions and the countries most felt most jilted by Washington - would increase their cooperation. But given its history and concern for the legitimacy of its rule, particularly after the Arab uprisings, the Saudi royal family is more likely to draw closer to Iran than Israel. When it comes to Israel, the Saudis will continue to balance their national security considerations with their internal and regional legitimacy concerns. The political cost of improving relations with Israel is much higher than improving relations with Iran. Even though the Saudi Wahhabis have no love for Iranian Shiites, the latter are at least Muslims. A bit of bandwagoning with Iran will therefore most likely be the order of the day. In any case, the Kingdom knows that the US, for its own reasons, will have the Saudis’ back.