Between Riyadh and Tel Aviv: Spy games and secret relations
Analysis: Every time there seem to be internal tensions in one of our neighborhood’s countries, the easiest thing to do is to divert the fire towards ‘the Zionist entity.’ It’s no wonder that less than 24 hours after Defense Minister Lieberman urged the Saudi crown prince to ‘come out of the closet’ about his country’s relations with Israel, Riyadh responded by uncovering two ‘Mossad agents’ in Saudi Arabia.
According to the report, the two agents are Israeli Arab citizens who were given passports of a third Arab country. They arrived at the kingdom pretending to look for work, but when they appeared extra diligent and began asking too many questions, they were put under secret surveillance and captured. It’s unclear when and where they were apprehended. The authorities have only promised that the trial will begin “soon.”
The report noted that this is the second time Saudi intelligence uncovers an Israeli agent. Five years ago, a Jordanian national was arrested on suspicion of collecting intelligence information for his operators in Israel with whom he corresponded by email, according to the indictment. He was sentenced to nine years in jail, and received 80 lashes at once before being thrown into prison.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia isn’t alone: Every time there seem to be tensions in one of the neighborhood’s countries, the easiest thing to do is to divert the fire towards “the Zionist entity.” It works well, it hits the mark and it unites everyone.
Numerous Mossad agents have been caught in Egypt before and after the peace agreement, and television series “based on the Mukhabarat cases” have huge ratings. The stories always involve a male or female agent who were uncovered, arrested and confessed to being sent to undermine the regime.
In Lebanon’s too, Israel has become part of the secular ruling party’s wars with its aggressive partners in Hezbollah. That doesn’t mean Israel’s hands are clean. We’re no angels. But it’s interesting to see how Hezbollah has made it a habit to “uncover” the agents and generously hand them over to the military legal authorities every time there are internal tensions. It’s a fixed pattern: They are either “exposed” while working in one of the army’s communication or purchase sections, or a mole is caught red-handed during a recruitment process and establishment of a local branch of the Israeli Mossad.
It’s not that there’s nothing to look for in Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, it’s the most fascinating country in the Arab world for more than a year now, creating dramas we’ve never experienced before and still don’t know how to interpret.
Israel definitely has good reasons to look for information about Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the acting king. Washington’s intelligence agencies are likely ignoring President Donald Trump’s smiles and conducting the closest secret surveillance. In the Arab world too, partners and bitter enemies are searching for covert channels into the closed kingdom.
Everything in Saudi Arabia today is interesting: The tensions with Iran, the war in Yemen, the internal social-economic revolution, the detainment and forced resignation of the Lebanese prime minister, the noisy dismissals and the conflicts within the royal family. And the big question is: When will the young crown prince decide that the time has come to crown himself?
We know very little about the confidential relationship between Riyadh and Tel Aviv. The fact is that it’s forbidden to criticize Israel in Saudi Arabia. The fact is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew in advance that Saudi Arabia would allow the Indian airline to fly across its territory to Israel, and he often talks about the great admiration he is detecting from Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. The fact is that Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is urging the Saudi prince to “come out of the closet,” muster the courage “like Sadat” and stop hiding what’s cooking.
Anyone looking for further proof should enter the “Saudis against normalization” website, which is operated by the royal family’s opponents. Here you’ll find tales about the banality of the normalization between Riyadh and Tel Aviv and about the smart Israeli security systems installed in the Riyadh palaces. It’s no wonder that less than 24 hours after Lieberman issued his “come out of the closet” call, Saudi Arabia responded by uncovering the Israeli espionage cell, which did or did not exist.