US Elbowed Aside by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel

At a press conference on May 22, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu revealed he is in the midst of consultations with regional leaders: “The initiatives I’m referring to are regional initiatives – meaning, aided by the Arab countries in the region to reach a real deal with the Palestinians.”
For the first time, Netanyahu said publicly that he had spoken with Middle Eastern leaders “over the last few hours.” DEBKA Weekly sources report that he has conversations at least three to five times a month with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman; Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; the UAE’s acting ruler, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan; and King Abdullah of Jordan.
The prime minister also has regular although less frequent conversations with what is called in Jerusalem 'the Outer Sphere' consisting of leaders of East African and Central African countries. Netanyahu speaks most frequently with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome.
He has also started talking with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a more frequent basis amid the recent warming of ties between their two countries.
The existence of such spheres in Israeli military strategy and foreign policy is not new. They have existed for almost all of the country’s 68 years since independence. The foundations were laid by the first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, who established a political and military alliance with non-Arab countries Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia to counter threats from the Arab world. In the 1980s and the 2000s, Ariel Sharon developed political and security alliances with Turkey and Egypt.
During the last four years, due to a lack of confidence in Washington after US President Barack Obama decided in 2012 to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran, Netanyahu has developed strategic alliances with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and East African countries.
Although neither Netanyahu nor any of the Arab leaders have any intention of cutting their military, financial, technological and intelligence ties to the US, it is clear to them all that they need an independent policy that does not depend on Washington.
The Obama administration’s unswerving support for the nuclear deal was the catalyst that united the main Middle Eastern and Persian Gulf countries and Israel.
However, it must be said that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan cannot be the groundwork underpinning Israel’s national security. Like Israel, each of these countries depends on additional security spheres: Saudi Arabia – on the US and France, the UAE – on France, and Jordan – on the US and Israel. Egypt alone maintains stronger security and intelligence ties with Israel than with any other power.
Washington and Moscow have been forced to respect the ties evolving between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the UAE and take them into account when forging their policies for the Middle East and Gulf regions. For two years, the Obama administration had to swallow active security co-ordination among the members of this loose alliance.
The US had therefore abandoned the Palestinian issue, leaving it at a regional level.
During his most recent visit to Cairo, on May 19, Secretary of State John Kerry tried to determine during his meeting with Egypt’s al-Sisi whether Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel are preparing to carry out an independent initiative on the Palestinian issue without the involvement of the US. It should be noted that one day earlier, al-Sisi made an emotional speech calling on Israel and the Palestinians to take steps toward peace, marking the first time he had done so since assuming power in 2014.
Since Netanyahu reshuffled his cabinet this week appointing Avigdor Lieberman as defense minster, Tony Blair ex-UK PM, has been trying his hand at Middle East peace making.
It is maybe recalled that 39 years ago, in 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made a surprise visit to Jerusalem as the guest of then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Obama and Kerry are concerned that the US will be caught off guard again, this time with an initiative by Netanyahu and el-Sisi.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also knows about the new political and strategic alliance in the Middle East, and that is the reason why the door of his office in the Kremlin is open to Netanyahu, who has visited Moscow more frequently than Washington during the last year.
Besides internal political considerations, one of the main reasons why Netanyahu appointed Avigdor Lieberman to the sensitive position of defense minister was his good ties with Moscow as well as Muslim countries in the Caucasus region such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
Neither Netanyahu nor other senior Israeli officials speak openly about this relationship, but the growing importance of Caucasus countries in the anti-Iranian policies of Persian Gulf states gives those Arab countries another reason to tighten ties with Israel.
In a separate article, DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources provide a list of military and intelligence topics on which Israel and Arab countries are cooperating.

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