A recent report from the kingdom indicates that dropping hostility to Israel is part of the Saudi regime’s far-reaching reform plans. Israel should respond.
In the Sept. 14 issue of POLITICO magazine, retired U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad published a report on his most recent trip to Saudi Arabia and the startling, indeed astonishing, changes he found there.
Khalilzad is wholly credible witness. He has spent a great deal of time in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States. He was ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the United Nations. Among many others, he met with the King, the crown prince, the deputy crown prince and various ministers on this trip.
His report makes the following points:
- The Saudis are now willing to admit that the regime has supported Arab extremism in the past and only when the Jihadi movements turned on them did they change their policies in this regard.
- The Saudi regime has jettisoned ideology for modernization. It is seen as essential in the new environment of low oil prices and growing threats from extremist groups and Iran.
- On the economic front there are detailed plans to transform the country from a natural resource-dependent to a knowledge economy, shrinking the bureaucracy, reducing subsidies, removing red tape, promoting the domestic private sector and promoting foreign investment. To which I might add expansion of the role of women in higher education and in the work force.
- And what of Israel? “The Saudis stated with unusual directness that they do not regard Israel as an enemy…. They did emphasize the need for progress on the Palestinian issue, but the tone on this subject was noticeably less emotional than in the past.”
Full article: Something significant is going on in Saudi Arabia (World Tribune)