Prelims: Current events of international importance, west Asia, saudi-Iran conflict, Arab League, OPEC, OPEC+, G20 etc
Mains GS Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global grouping and agreements involving India or affecting India’s interests.
- The Middle East to spring surprises are on call again.
- United States diplomacy to reconcile two regional powerhouses, viz. Saudi Arabia and Israel.
INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
- It dates back to the end of the nineteenth century, and is one of the world’s most enduring conflicts, with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
- The Israel and Palestine conflict is complex: It’s rooted in national, political, territorial, cultural and religious factors
- The core issue is not just about the land; it is about having the right to self-determination
Challenges for US in Saudi-Israel pursuit:
- The PM of Israel heads an extreme right-wing coalition determined to accelerate the Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank and curb the judiciary’s independence
- The U.S. strongly opposes both.
- Saudi Crown Prince, initially ostracized by the Biden Administration for his alleged involvement in the Jamal Khashoggi murder
- The Kingdom has been calm towards Washington.
- It has reconciled tactically, with Iran through Chinese mediation, hosted the Chinese President for three summits in Riyadh
- Cooperated with Russia under the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries-Plus (OPEC+) rubric for higher oil prices
- It facilitated the return of Syria to the Arab fold.
Steps by the US to persuade Saudi Arabia to normalize its relations with Israel:
- The proposal to normalize has been on the Saudi table since 2020
- The Saudi Crown Prince and Israel PM had an unpublicised meeting in Neom, Saudi Arabia, in the presence of the then-U.S. Secretary of State
- S. National Security Adviser and U.S. Secretary of State visiting Saudi Arabia.
Pre-conditions by Saudi:
- To be included in North Atlantic Treaty Organization-like U.S. security guarantees
- Access to advanced American weapons systems
- Approval for the acquisition of civilian nuclear technology
- Israeli commitment to a process leading to a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
Motives of US, Saudi and Israel:
- It is deeply concerned with the growing influence by China and Russia in the ‘Middle East’
- It wants to re-entrench the Pax Americana over the region by bringing two traditionally pro-west regional players together.
- It feels that fostering such a reconciliation would ingratiate USA with the two miffed leaders.
- The powerful Jewish lobby’s gratitude would help Mr. Biden win the U.S. presidential election next year.
- Under the Crown Prince, it has adopted an assertive and ambitious foreign policy
- commensurate with its oil wealth
- To become primus inter pares for the region
- To emerge as an important global player.
- By reconciling with Israel, it takes away the first movers’ advantage that the UAE has had as a member of the “Abraham Accords”.
- The diplomatic ties with Israel would balance the Kingdom’s recent reconciliation with Iran and Syria
- It helps it emerge as a more nationalist power than an Islamic one.
- Saudi Arabia needs a stronger U.S. security commitment and access to Israeli technology.
- The Saudi Crown Prince may need to mitigate the skepticism about Israel at home and within Al-Saud.
- A Star of David flying in Riyadh would be a major geopolitical victory
- It will symbolize its final acceptance as a legitimate Jewish state by the center of Islam after 75 years as a regional outcast.
- Given the Kingdom’s trendsetting role as the custodian of Islam’s two holy shrines
- The Riyadh-Tel Aviv détente: It would herald Israel’s integration with the Arab-Islamic world.
- It would provide direct air and land access to Asia, enabling better leveraging of the economic opportunities as the economic center of gravity shifts eastwards.
- The global fallout from such a development would be quite profound: The Islamic mainstream would likely follow the Saudi lead, with countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia in the first row.
- It would further marginalize the “Palestinians’ Cause” and may polarize and radicalize along with other opponents of Israel such as Iran and Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic State.
- The U.S. may eventually succeed despite the formidable odds, particularly as the Israeli government would have to moderate some of its hard-held policies.
- Saudi-Israeli rapprochement would have a mildly positive impact on India.
- It would remove a contradiction in India’s regional policy and better align Saudi Arabia with us.
- It may open opportunities as the U.S. pushes back China from the region.
- It may give Israel reasons to hyphenate India with Islamic countries, including Pakistan.
QUESTION FOR PRACTICE
How will I2U2 (India, Israel, UAE and USA) grouping transform India’s Position in global politics?(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)