Following the termination of Israel’s Parliament and consequently Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition’s failure to pass a budget demanded by Gantz, the country is going to hold its fourth election in past 2 years, amid the widespread outrage over Netanyahu’s treatment of the coronavirus pandemic. More than the Israelis, this has been a matter of concern for Saudi Arabia.
After three inconclusive elections, last year Netanyahu and his opponent, Benny Gantz, finally formed a coalition government in May, but the alliance soon weakened and failed, because of the hostility and distrust they had toward each other.
Based on the three-year coalition agreement, Netanyahu was expected to remain prime minister for 18 months, with Gantz coming to power in November 2021.
A while back, Gantz asked the government to approve a budget for 2020 and 2021, claiming that Israel, as well as the alliance, needed stability. But Netanyahu, declined to support the budget, and now the country is to hold the election this month.
Approaching the election, Netanyahu emphasized in an interview that “If an election is forced upon us, I promise you that we will win.” However, other neighboring countries are not as sure as he is.
Recently, Saudi Arabia indicated that it is worried about a potential election loss for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom they regard as a “spearhead” against Iran.
Last week, a backstage but valid source revealed that Riyadh is carefully monitoring the Israeli election campaign and hopes that Netanyahu remains in power after the March 23 election.
The source said “[The Saudi royal family] not only prefer Netanyahu, but they love him. He has the required charisma, and he knows very well what he is doing.”
He stressed how much they are worried about the upcoming election and its result. He said “We are very concerned about his replacement by the head of the opposition [Yair Lapid], who will change some things.”
There has been another leaked news which said that Saudi Arabia considers Netanyahu as “spearhead against Iran.” Of course they are not willing to interfere in Israel’s election. They also didn’t even want to comment on it.
But what is the main reason for this fully support from Saudi Arabia? In recent months, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco have all signed US-backed normalization agreements with Israel. Following this agreement, Netanyahu asserted “If there’s something that brings peace more than anything else, it’s that [Arab states] stopped seeing Israel as an enemy, and started seeing us as an ally in security and economically.”
Even in November, Netanyahu traveled to Saudi Arabia for a secret meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. So, if Netanyahu doesn’t win the election, they will have a new condition to cope with.
Saudi Arabia has been on its toes toward Netanyahu’s rival, Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid (There Is A Future) party. They assume that he would negotiate with Iran and accept US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy change towards China and Asia, resulting in reduction in the number of US personnel assigned to the Middle East.
However, recently the United States released a study claiming that Mohammed bin Salman was behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in 2018. This shows that the ties between Saudi Arabia and the United States tend to become pale now, compared with what they were under Donald Trump’s presidency, when he was the driving force behind the new normalization agreements.