In the past few weeks, I have held numerous conversations with opinion makers and decision takers in the Middle East, says Ronald S Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress. "As I finished this exhilarating round of talks, I had a thought: Isn't it time to combine the monumental struggle against Iran with this blossoming Arab-Israeli partnership?"
Writing in the Arab News of Saudi Arabia Monday under the title "A NATO for the Middle East," Lauder said: Facing the accelerating threat of a malevolent Iran and the weakness of a coronavirus-hit world, the path toward self-reliance seems also to be the only path forward. Israelis and Arabs should seize the opportunity to work together to save the Middle East from the looming catastrophe of extremism and nuclearization.
The beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, may well be the time to form an Arab-Israeli NATO to ensure the security and stability of the Middle East against the Iranian threat, Lauder said adding:
The founding members of this new alliance Middle East Defense Organization (MEDO) could be the nations in the Middle East and North Africa that already have a treaty or an open relationship with Israel: Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. I am optimistic other Arab nations may join the Abraham Accords soon. MEDO could also pursue close relations with Greece, Cyprus and some African nations, with the objective of protecting their stability and encouraging swift economic development.
The MEDO will not only be a formidable bulwark against Iran but it will curb Turkey's imperialist ambitions, Lauder argued.Jerusalem Post
Tellingly, the Jerusalem Post, building on Lauder's article in the Arab News carried a story by Lahav Harkov, its Diplomatic Correspondent under the title: Israel in talks with Saudi, UAE, Bahrain for defense alliance against Iran.
Harknov quoted an Israeli official source as saying that Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have discussed expanding cooperation in facing common enemies,
The matter is being "informally discussed," the source said, adding that the countries are US allies. All four believe a nuclear Iran would be a major threat and have been eyeing the Biden administration's plan to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with concern.
The remarks came following an article by World Jewish Congress president Ron Lauder in Arab News calling for a "NATO of the Middle East," Harknov pointed out and added:
Saudi Arabia does not have a free press, and Arab News, an English-language daily newspaper published in Saudi Arabia, is owned by Prince Turki bin Salman Al Saud, a son of King Salman and brother of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and is seen as reflecting the Saudi government's official views.
Israel is in talks with the three Gulf states about a defense alliance, the Israeli TV network i24 News claimed last week.
The Prime Minister's Office said it was "not confirming the report, but we are always interested in upgrading ties with our Middle East partners," according to i24 News.
Israel still does not have official ties with Saudi Arabia. But it grew closer with the three Gulf states with which it is discussing further security cooperation in the aftermath of the 2015 deal between world powers and Iran, which they felt does not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon once the agreement expires, the Jerusalem Post said.
In other developments, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi spoke on phone with Omani Foreign Minister Badr Albusaidi on Monday.
"Views were exchanged on a number of issues of common interest, as well as the importance of supporting all efforts aimed at achieving peace and stability in the region," Ashkenazi said. "We agreed to maintain our direct channel of communication and to further enhance cooperation."
Israel does not have official diplomatic relations with Oman, but Netanyahu led a delegation to the country in 2018.