Tamir Pardo
Tamir PardoMeir Vaaknin/Flash 90

Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo was interviewed Monday by the Saudi website Elaph and discussed the diplomatic contacts with the Gulf states as well the tension with Iran and Hezbollah.

Regarding the way Hezbollah should be handled, Pardo said the solution should not be in the form of military action, but rather in economic sanctions against Lebanon, just as was done with Iran. He reiterated the Israeli position that the Iranian forces should be removed from Syrian territory, but expressed doubts about Russia's ability to fulfill the Israeli security establishment's desire.

Pardo also told the Saudi website that he believes the main issue that is stalling progress in relations between Israel and the Gulf states is the Palestinian issue, since the Gulf states tend to support the Palestinians.

As for relations between the Arab states and Israel, Pardo told Elaph that he met with many leaders and heads of Arab security apparatuses and discovered "citizens who are proud of their countries and act in the interests of their people."

Pardo becomes the latest Israeli official to give an interview to the Saudi website in recent months. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was interviewed by the news website in April and stressed that Israel would not tolerate an Iranian strike on Israel, while asserting that Israel would not hesitate to strike Tehran in such a case.

Liberman stressed that, while Israel is not interested in war with anybody, it will not tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria “at any price.”

“These are the final days of the Iranian regime,” Liberman warned, adding that “if Iran attacks Tel Aviv, Israel will strike Tehran and destroy every Iranian military site that threatens Israel in Syria, whatever the price."

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz spoke to the website in February and said that "If Iran continues to threaten and carry out offensive actions against Israel from Syria, we will teach it a lesson that it will never forget."

Some view these interviews as a reflection of growing ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, though Saudi officials have repeatedly denied any ties with Israel.

One recent report claimed the Saudi government is weighing the possible normalization of relations with Israel ahead of a planned Middle East peace initiative by the Trump administration which aims to not only secure a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but lead to recognition of the Jewish state by the larger Arab world.

Another report implied that Saudi King Salman plans to step down and announce his son as his successor, and that once the Crown Prince becomes king, he would enlist the help of the Israeli military to crush Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon.

The Crown Prince recently asserted that Israel has a "right" to a homeland, before King Salman reaffirmed his support for the Palestinian Authority in a phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump.