One interesting outcome to the Saudis brazenly murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi is that world leaders and the determined allies of Saudi Arabia have dropped all pretense of finesse when discussing the matter, such as when President Trump told Fox News last month that while Khashoggi’s death was tragic and should be investigated, the prospect of blocking arms sales to the kingdom is “very tough pill to swallow for our country” because American jobs are on the line.
Another world leader who’s been blunt on ensuring his relationship with the Saudis weather the storm of media and international outrage is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who argued in public statements this week that while the killing of the Saudi journalist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was “horrendous,” stability in Saudi Arabia is vital to global security.
Netanyahu spoke at the Craiova Forum — a summit in Bulgaria — alongside the president of Serbia and the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania.
Netanyahu’s frank assessment of the Khashoggi affair were as follows, according to Haaretz:
What happened in the Istanbul consulate was horrendous, and it should be duly dealt with. Yet at the same time I say that it is very important for the stability of the world, of the region and of the world, that Saudi Arabia remains stable.
The Israeli prime minister further stressed that “the larger problem is Iran.” He explained that blocking Iranian “terrorism” is imperative for the security of Europe, and specifically mentioned Israel helping thwart recent “terrorist attacks” in Paris and Copenhagen, which he claimed had Iranian intelligence’s backing and planning.
“Blocking Iran is uppermost in our agenda for security” Netanyahu said during the summit.
New Iran sanctions are a time to celebrate for a few delusional parties – Trump, MBS, Netanyahu, their cheerleaders in Washington and hardliners in Tehran. For 80 million Iranians, it will unleash poverty and misery: https://t.co/vXueFMKkN2
— Ryan Costello (@RN_Costello) November 2, 2018
According to Middle East Eye it constituted the first time Israeli officials have taken a public stance on the issue, and the silence has been deafening:
For the past month, while governments and media outlet around the world sounded a drumbeat of shock and dismay over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, all that could be heard on the subject from Israel was the sound of crickets. Israeli columnist Ben Caspit said his country’s leadership was avoiding the subject “like the plague”.
It appears no Israeli politician wants to say anything for fear of offending that country’s latest Arab bromantic partner, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Bin Salman, according to many analysts, would have had to have ordered the murder of a figure as prominent as Khashoggi.
But this week’s Netanyahu comments are hugely significant in that Israel has now gone public in sticking by MbS.
This follows statements last month that hinted at the issue without expressly naming the Saudis or Khashoggi, when Netanyahu opened an October 15 parliamentary session at the Knesset by addressing his familiar theme of “Iranian expansion” in Syria, lamenting some of the public heat and attention had been taken off Tehran for a time due to the Saudi issue: “We must act against the Iranian regime in Syria,” Netanyahu said.
This is Israel essentially continuing to tell the West to “keep your eye on the ball” regards Iran. Likely Western leaders’ attention is already beginning to shift back to Iran as crippling U.S. sanctions are set to snap back on November 5.