Former Ambassador Yoram Ettinger spoke to Israel National News (INN) about the negotiations to reach a normalization accord with Saudi Arabia and its potential impact on Israel's policies in Judea and Samaria and vis a vis the Palestinian Authority.
Speaking at the "From Oslo to Sovereignty" online conference produced by the Sovereignty Movement and Arutz Sheva - Israel National News, Ettinger said that "In order to understand the room of maneuverability for Israel, we have to realize that the negotiation with Saudi Arabia takes place in the Middle East. Not in North America, not in West[ern] Europe, but in the volcanic Middle East."
Ettinger added that the Middle East has "features" of "unpredictability, shifting reality, high-level fragmentation, violence, intolerance, and maybe most importantly: All regimes in the Arab Middle East do not rise to power through the ballot but through the bullet. As such, they are very, very tenuous."
"Shifting regimes or tenuous regimes mean tenuous policies and tenuous policies mean tenuous accords," he said. "While some people assume wrongly that peace accords are a major tenet of a country's national security, in the Middle East, the tenuous reality of the Middle East [means that] peace accords are extremely important for the growth of the country, but not as a major element of national security."
He noted that Israel and the US had a good relationship with Iran under the rule of the Shah, but Iran became an enemy of the US Israel's greatest enemy following the Iranian revolution of 1979, demonstrating how putting too much stock in good relations with a particular regime is "reckless."
"Any peace accords with Arabs is extremely important for the growth of Israel, for its international and regional position, but it must not replace fundamental tenets of national security. You cannot exchange national security on the Judea and Samaria front with a peace accord with Saudi Arabia."
Ettinger said that Saudi Arabia is not interested in normalization with Israel because of Israeli concessions for the sake of peace with the Palestinian Authority, but "because they regard Israel as a critical partner in their attempt to face off against national security threats as well as economic challenges. They do not trust the Americans as long-term allies in view of America's coddling of the ayatollahs of Iran ... however, they do trust Israel as the only reliable regional ally which they have right now in the face of Iran's ayatollahs."
He blamed pro-Oslo elements in Israel and the US State Department for the focus on the Palestinian Authority in the Israel-Saudi Arabia negotiations, saying that the Saudis do not "walk the walk" to back their stated support for the PA.