A new bombshell report in the Jerusalem Post confirms that Israel and Saudi Arabia's somewhat "quiet" but growing security relationship is far more extensive than previously thought, as it now includes a $250 million weapons deal.
This is unprecedented as the two nations still don't even have official diplomatic relations, as the kingdom has yet to officially recognize the state of Israel, but continue a close behind the scenes alliance based on intelligence sharing especially in places like Syria or even Yemen in order to "counter Iran".
According to the Jerusalem Post report:
Saudi Arabia and Israel held secret meetings which led to an estimated $250-million deal, including the transfer of Israeli espionage technologies to the kingdom, Israeli media reported on Sunday, citing an exclusive report by the United Arab Emirate news website Al-Khaleej.
The report goes on to describe the spy systems as "the most sophisticated systems Israel has ever sold to any Arab country" and notes they've already been transferred to Saudi Arabia, where a Saudi technical team will undergo training to operate them.
It is extremely unlikely if not impossible that Israel's own technicians and operators would actually conduct the training of Saudi personnel — likely it is to be done through contractors from Western countries who are usually in abundance in the kingdom.
Interestingly, it appears the United States and Britain may also have had a role to play in cementing the deal, which was first exposed by a Gulf-based news outlet:
The exclusive report also revealed that the two countries exchanged strategic military information in the meetings, which were conducted in Washington and London through a European mediator.
Lending credibility to the report are prior recent revelations in September that Saudi Arabia had purchased Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system amidst its ongoing war with Houthi rebels in Yemen, which have resulted in several short to medium range ballistic missile attacks on the kingdom over the past year.
The controversial report detailing that Saudi Arabia has purchased Israeli's Iron Dome defense system went viral at the time after a prominent Arabic news site, Al-Khaleej Online, made the claim based on diplomatic sources. The report alleged the first Iron Dome missile battery is slated to be transferred to Saudi Arabia before the end of the year in December.
Israel had denied the Iron Dome transfer story at the time while Riyadh kept silent: “We deny the existence of a deal to sell Iron Dome to Saudi Arabia,” Israel's Defense Ministry said in an emailed statement to the Times of Israel in September. Israeli officials had only responded to the story after it swept national media on the heels of the claims taking Arabic social media by storm.
Two weeks ago, as the Jamal Khashoggi affair began shaking up Saudi-Washington relations, Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli parliament: "Because of the Iranian threat, Israel and other Arab countries are closer than they ever were before," the prime minister said. This acknowledgement came after years of Saudi Arabia joining in a covert partnership to topple the Syrian government — a project which has clearly failed.
This latest revelation of the transfer of $250m in sophisticated spy equipment is part of a broader trend in closer Saudi-Israeli "secret" relations which will only continue so long as both see the United States as "not doing enough" to thwart Iranian expansion in the region.
However, the timing of the alleged transfer of Israeli espionage equipment is especially especially interesting as well as alarming, given that news of it comes just as Riyadh has been exposed as spying on and murdering journalists, activists, and dissidents even as they reside in foreign countries.