Iran crisis tightens top-level Israel-Egyptian-Saudi strategic interaction

Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak said his talks in Cairo Sunday, June 21, with President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian defense minister Gen. Tantawi and intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman were interesting and wide-ranging. They covered Iran, Lebanon, Gaza, US president Barak Obama’s Middle East peace initiative
and the case of the abducted Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit, now three years in Hamas captivity.
A round meeting of all four was followed by separate discussions with the key officials of the two governments five weeks after Binyamin Netanyahu traveled to Sharm el-Sheikh for a conference with the Egyptian president on May 11 shortly before he took office as Israeli prime minister.
debkafile‘s political sources report The Cairo conference further solidified the understanding forged between Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia six months ago, which none of the parties acknowledge formally.
One of its aspects is Israel’s willingness to take its Arab partners’ interests into account in its military policy. This consideration guided Israel in ending its Gaza offensive in January short of wiping out the Palestinian extremist Hamas.
The three neighbors are bound by the common objective of halting Iran’s Middle East expansion and curtailing its nuclear aspirations by means of diplomatic, military and intelligence cooperation, or alternatively, to minimize the menace posed the region from Tehran.
For most of the time, the three partners have worked together quietly and ad hoc. Then US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu used their speeches to bring the arrangement out in the open when they spoke of a breakthrough in Israel-Arab regional relations to accompany Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
There are no direct Israel-Saudi official contacts, debkafile‘s Middle East sources report. They use Cairo as a letterbox with Gen. Suleiman hopping over to Riyadh to deliver messages as needed. Israeli and Saudi intelligence chiefs are thought to have had one secret meeting in an Arab capital.
Iran obviously figured high on the agenda of Barak’s talks with Egyptian leaders. In fact it was the first time that the two governments had ever admitted to discussing regional affairs unrelated to bilateral or Palestinian issues. There is no doubt that both Jerusalem and Cairo urgently needed to trade views, intelligence input and evaluations on where the unrest in Iran is heading next.
Regarding Lebanon, Egyptian leaders and the Israeli minister explored the implications of the pro-Iranian Hizballah’s loss of the March 8 election to the pro-western majory.
On the Palestinian issue, they talked about mending the fences between Fatah and Hamas, a sine qua non for progress in Israel-Palestinian peacemaking.
The Israeli prime minister remarked Sunday as Barak was on his way to Cairo that the demands he made of the Palestinians in his June 14 speech as necessary for peace were not pre-conditions was meant to smooth the way for the minister’s talks in Cairo. In that speech, Netanyahu said he would accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel provided it was demilitarized and the Palestinians recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.

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