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Tel Aviv, Israel (UPI) Oct 3, 2013
Israel, alarmed at the prospect of a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement, is reported to be discussing the possibility of an anti-Iran alliance with longtime Arab adversaries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a project that could have immense ramifications in the Middle East.
If talks are under way, they're in large part the result of many secret meetings between Israeli and Arab intelligence chiefs and other senior officials that have been held over several years, often in the Jordanian capital Amman.
Senior Israelis have held meetings with prominent figures from a number of Persian Gulf and other Arab states in recent weeks in an attempt to muster a new alliance capable of blocking Iran's drive, Israel's Channel 2 television reported Wednesday.
The report said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has vociferously opposed what appears to be a determined effort by U.S. President Barack Obama to pursue reconciliation with Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, supervised these "intensive meetings."
Channel 2 said a "high-ranking official" from an Arab state secretly visited Israel for talks. It gave no details.
The Times of Israel observed that the report was published a day after the hawkish Netanyahu declared during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York that shared concerns over Tehran's nuclear project "have led many of our Arab neighbors to recognize ... that Israel is not their enemy."
He said this "affords us the opportunity to overcome historic animosities and build news relationships, new friendships, new hopes."
Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Muslim monarchies share some of Israel's strategic concerns. They are also concerned about Shiite Iran's nuclear objectives and its influence across the oil-rich gulf and the Levant, just as Israel is, and favor direct action to curb Iranian expansionism.
Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened pre-emptive and unilateral Israeli military action against Iran's nuclear program and has been held in check largely by pressure from Washington and the forceful opposition of his senior commanders.
Netanyahu and his hard-line associates have said they no longer believe that Obama would use military force against Iran to prevent it acquiring nuclear weapons.
Israel has diplomatic relations with two Arab states, peace partners Egypt and Jordan. It had clandestine dealings with Amman under the late King Hussein long before it signed its peace treaty with the Hashemite kingdom in 1994.
Although Channel 2 did not specify which Arab states Netanyahu was dealing with, the most likely candidates are Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, which make up the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The Jewish state has had covert dealings with them to one degree or another for years, particularly since the first peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, and no doubt with Washington's discreet blessing.
There were reports in May that Netanyahu's government was working on an anti-Iran defense pact with several "moderate" regional states, including Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Jordan and Turkey, a strategic Israeli ally until a diplomatic rupture in May 2010.
The Israelis have had secret dealings in recent years with nuclear power Pakistan, a staunch military ally of Saudi Arabia.
The Sunday Times of London, which habitually publishes seemingly outlandish reports on Israel, asserted that under that arrangement Israel would gain access to the GCC's gulf-based early warning radar system.
Technically, developing such an alliance would not be difficult. Israel and GCC states all use U.S. military systems and the battle-hardened Israelis would no doubt he happy to do the heavy lifting if there was any action.
Selling such a proposition to Arab populations, who for decades have been taught to hate the Jewish state, would prove far more problematical and politically explosive.
But the monarchies and Israel share an abiding hatred of the Islamic jihadists now operating across the Arab world. The gulf monarchies, like the Israelis, are also concerned that U.S. power in the Middle East is waning, leaving them vulnerable amid the region's turmoil.
The new reports concerning Israel come amid strenuous efforts by Netanyahu and his ministers to portray Rouhani's reformist administration in Tehran as untrustworthy and to mobilize Israel's powerful political lobby in Washington to undermine the push for reconciliation among U.S. lawmakers who depend on its support at election time.
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