AGAINST THE GRAIN: SAUDI ARABIA AND ISRAEL'S WARMING RELATIONS
Carter, Rachel O.
Ostovar, Afshon P.
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Saudi Arabia and Israel have never had formal diplomatic relations. The Arab-Israeli issue of Palestinian self-determination, above all else, has kept these two Middle East states apart and at times in adversarial tension. However, the 21st century has witnessed thawing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, despite the continued unpopularity of Israel within Saudi society. Scholars have largely isolated one or two of the primary drivers that promote or inhibit Saudi's desire to cooperate with Israel—mutual concern with Iran, Saudi reform initiatives, and U.S. influence—without analyzing how the factors work in tandem to promote or inhibit cooperation as a whole. This thesis examines how those drivers interact to provide a more holistic understanding of why Saudi Arabia would cooperate with Israel, and the implications of those drivers on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. This thesis concludes that in the present configuration, the drivers of Saudi's cooperation initiatives with Israel collectively have not stimulated a viable path to normalization of relations that circumvents the barrier of Palestinian self-determination. This thesis also concludes that this barrier is predominantly the result of Saudi Arab tradition and not borne out of religion. Saudi Arabia and Israel will continue to cooperate towards mutually beneficial opportunities short of normalization for as long as the strategic context of their relationship endures.
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