And what does all this mean for Israel?
It's been an eventful week in the Middle East and, for once, the two revolutionary facts – which may be just one, but we'll get to that – don't directly involve Israel.
Mohammed bin Salman (or MBS, his acronym), the recently appointed Saudi crown prince, has placed a number of his rivals under luxury house arrest, and Saad Hariri, Lebanon's prime minister, has resigned, saying his country is no is not manageable as long as Iran interferes in its affairs..
But of course, Israel is involved: Are there any events in the Middle East that don't involve Israel?
What happened ? Part I
Mohammed, 32, was named crown prince by his father, King Salman, in June. It was an upheaval in itself, as succession is a dark and delicate process aimed at preserving balance among the confusion of descendants of the kingdom's founder, Abdulaziz. Salman's declaration that his son would succeed him greatly shook the family.
Already Minister of Defense since 2015, Crown Prince Mohammed hastened to clarify that he was a leader (his father being ill). As crown prince, he placed his predecessor under house arrest, repeatedly expressed his desire to modernize the kingdom, and kept his promise when his father decreed that women could now drive.
Over the weekend, he rounded up 11 princes and dozens of other top officials and placed them under house arrest, many at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh. Officially, father and son suppressed corruption.
What happened ? Part II
Guess who else was in Riyadh? Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister supported by Saudi Arabia. A former prime minister, he said he was resigning because Iran controls the country through its ally Hezbollah and he fears for his life.
Hezbollah controls a terrorist militia that overshadows the Lebanese army. He is widely believed to have killed Hariri's father, Rafik, who was also prime minister, in 2005.
So why stop now?
It may be the same story.
Since becoming defense minister in 2015, the crown prince has spearheaded an aggressive Saudi bid to reassert dominance in the region against an increasingly authoritarian Iran. He leads Saudi Arabia's war with Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Getting Hariri out of Lebanon is part of a larger strategy to keep Iran out.
As he guides Saudi Arabia toward bolder clashes with Iran in the region, the crown prince may feel he needs to consolidate his power at home.
“MBS has taken a very assertive approach to Saudi foreign policy,” said Tamara Cofman Wittes, senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. “This is happening simultaneously with his efforts to consolidate internal control. »
So Saudi Arabia takes on Iran – good for Israel, right?
The Israeli government seems to think so. Ron Dermer, its ambassador in Washington, told the Israeli American Council on Monday that he was "more optimistic now because I see a change in the region."
Dermer was not directly referring to the events of the weekend but to broader changes. Nonetheless, it was significant that he delivered what became a familiar message from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following Hariri's resignation and purge in the Riyadh kingdom.
"Arab governments are not where they were five years ago, nor 10 or 15 years ago, because they consider our interests to be aligned with theirs," Dermer said as quoted by the Jewish Insider. “A lot of things are happening under the surface, a lot of remarkable things. »
Israel's Channel XNUMX reported to diplomats a statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry that listed pro-Saudi talking points on Hariri's resignation and the kingdom's intervention in Yemen.
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the Netanyahu government was seizing a clear opportunity.
Hariri's resignation "is just one more indicator of a possible regional architecture that could be built between Sunni states and Israel", he said. “If MBS manages to create a modern Saudi Arabia, one can imagine a Saudi Arabia somewhere where Israel and Saudi Arabia could have open ties. »
Schanzer warned, however, "but we're in the early stages. »
Nimrod Novik, a former Israeli peace negotiator, said Saudi Arabia's sudden invocation of Abbas was another positive sign of Crown Prince Mohammed's moderating stance.
Novik, who is now Israel Fellow of the Israel Political Forum, said it was significant that the summons came a week after a quiet visit to Saudi Arabia by Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to President Donald Trump. The Trump administration wants Abbas to reassert control of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Saudi Arabia, which works with other Sunni moderates in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, is asking Abbas to take the necessary risks by offering him a "bulletproof vest", as Novik put it, offer only qualified support for Israeli-Palestinian peace movements.
“I would have liked to be a fly on the wall” in Riyadh, he said.
Let's not get carried away
There are many risks for Israel in the recent upheaval.
Daniel Shapiro, a former US ambassador to the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, said Israel should be wary of a war with Hezbollah, an attack that would undermine Hezbollah, a key target of Crown Prince Mohammed, but which would cost Saudi Arabia and Israel little.
"Israel and Saudi Arabia may be strategically aligned" in seeking to contain Iran, Shapiro said, "but they are not tactically aligned."
“It could accelerate the confrontation Hezbollah already wants with Israel because [war with Israel] would be a unifying event” for the Lebanese, Shapiro said.
Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a researcher on the Persian Gulf at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the Saudis may be coordinating with Israel behind the scenes, but there is no agreement yet. reasons for making the relationship open. her colleague Simon Henderson, joining her in a conference call for reporters, said there remained plenty of reasons to keep the relationship private, especially popular opinion, noting the hostile reception of Israeli athletes during a judo competition in Abu Dhabi.
"It's an indication of how difficult it is to sell pro-Israel politics to these people," he said.
What about Jared?
Kushner said his visit to Saudi Arabia was simply to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. Jason Greenblatt accompanied him to Ryad, whose mission is to negotiate peace. Greenblatt continued to Israel and Palestinian areas.
Iran prefers to see a conspiracy. Javad Zarif, his foreign minister, said on Twitter that Kushner's visit "led to Hariri's bizarre resignation abroad".
It was also the buzz in Washington.
David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist known for his deep sources in the US intelligence community, wrote after the events in Riyadh that "it's probably no coincidence that last month Jared Kushner, Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law , visited personally in Riyadh. The two princes are said to have stayed up until four in the evening, swapping stories and planning their strategy. »
Trump may have boosted conspiracy theories on Monday night when he tweeted his support for Crown Prince Mohammed's crackdown.
"I have great faith in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing," he said on Twitter.
Brookings Institution's Wittes said MBS was not doing anything other than Kushner or anyone else in the Trump administration, but rather filling a void created by what at times seemed like an undirected American foreign policy.
"The US government is not putting anything on the table," she said. “In the absence of that, what you see is Israel and Saudi Arabia trying to lure the United States into the region. »
Source: What is the impact of political unrest in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon for Israel? | The Times of Israel