As the days drag by without a Saudi explanation for what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist who disappeared inside the Saudi Consulate in Turkey and hasn’t been seen or heard from since, the kingdom’s foes — notably, Iran and Qatar— have stayed noticeably quiet. But so, too, has Saudi Arabia’s unlikely and unofficial ally, Israel.
The Israelis are “in a very difficult position,” Dan Shapiro, the US ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama, told BuzzFeed News. “They count very much on Saudi Arabia,” which is “central to their strategic concept of the region.” Saudi Arabia, after all, is their partner in arms in countering and isolating Iran and Israel’s “strategic anchor” in the region.
On the other hand, “They wouldn’t want to use capital to argue against a strong conclusion” that Saudi Arabia is in the wrong. “They’re not going to defend this indefensible concept,” said Shapiro, now a distinguished visiting fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies.
There’s also the small matter that “Officially, Israel has no ties with Saudi Arabia. Officially, the Saudis still don’t recognize Israel at all,” said the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Jonathan Schanzer. “Of course we know that, beneath the surface, there’s been quite a bit of activity.” He pointed as well to the Saudi participation in isolating Iran, and in their rumored role in the forthcoming Trump peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians.
“But officially, there’s nothing for the Israelis to say,” Schanzer said.
In Washington, that isn’t only manifesting itself in terms of a lack of public pronouncements. Congressional aides, including from several of the most pro-Israel offices in Congress (according to Open Secrets’ log of recipients of contributions from the so-called Israel lobby), said they hadn’t heard from the Israeli government, the country’s embassy, or other representatives of the official Israeli position on the matter.
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