Israel ‘willing to share’ Iran intelligence with Saudis

In an interview with a Saudi website, Israel’s army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot signals closer ties with the kingdom.

Eisenkot - Saudi
Eisenkot told Elaph that Iran is the biggest threat in the Middle East [File: Reuters]

A prominent Saudi website has published an unprecedented interview with Israel’s army chief of staff, signalling closer cooperation between the two countries against regional rival, Iran.

In an interview published by Elaph on Thursday, Lieutenant-General Gadi Eisenkot said that Israel is ready to share intelligence information to face the “threat” posed by Tehran.

Israel’s military confirmed the content of the interview, a rare episode given that Saudi Arabia and Israel have not formal diplomatic relations.

In the interview, Eisenkot called Iran the “true and biggest threat” in the Middle East, accusing it of supporting armed groups throughout the region.

He said it is necessary to stop Iran from spreading its influence.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Anna Ahronheim, military correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, confirmed the report, saying that the interview was conducted by an Israeli Druze journalist in Tel Aviv.

“It’s a pretty significant deal,” Ahronheim said, noting that Eisenkot does not even give interviews to Israeli news outlets.

“This is definitely a big step for Eisenkot to do.”

The last time an Israeli chief of staff spoke to an Arabic outlet was with Al Jazeera.

Ahronheim said that while it is unlikely that the two countries would immediately cooperate on wide-ranging intelligence sharing, they could cooperate more closely, particularly on Iran.

Eisenkot, however, said in the interview that there is no interest in Israel to launch an attack on the Iran-linked Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israel has increasingly been making a public alliance with Saudi Arabia following the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president earlier this year.

In June, Yisrael Katz, Israel’s intelligence and transportation minister, suggested that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman invite Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, to Riyadh, to establish full diplomatic relations. 

Katz also said King Salman should send his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to Tel Aviv. 

AFP news agency later reported that the crown prince made a secret visit to Tel Aviv in September. The report was denied by Saudi Arabia.

Source: Al Jazeera