There is an ancient Arab story from the sixth century about a Jewish man named Samuel, or “Samawal,” in Arabic. He was entrusted with the money and weaponry of his close Arab friend who was being pursued by an enemy. Upon discovering this, the enemy sought out Samuel and demanded to be given the property of the Arab, threatening Samuel with murder if he did not comply. Samuel remained steadfast in his refusal to obey their orders and was promptly killed.
From this story was born the well-used Arab phrase that’s still in use to this day, ‘more loyal than Samuel,’ which describes a loyal and trustworthy person. Just like in the story of Samuel, the Arab and Israeli people should seek to build mutual trust and respect, and shed light upon the ancient spirit of collaboration in all fields, including science, literature, astronomy and all aspects of the golden era of Arab-Jewish relations, especially in Andalusia.
Throughout history, peaceful collaboration has borne an abundance of good fruits; now, a shared vision for the future will allow our countries to continue to flourish. Israel’s global prowess in a broad range of industries, in spite of the country’s small size and population, has compelled me to stay firm in my belief that the country can and should become one of the primary contributors to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 agenda. Not surprisingly, Israel has the third, fourth and fifth best universities in terms of innovation according to an international ranking of universities. Saudi Arabia topped the list, coming in first and second place. Through collaboration on technological and entrepreneurial fronts, the sky is the limit for what these two countries can accomplish together.
The media has reported that the Saudis are asking for three demands from the US, the first being an agreement regarding peaceful nuclear cooperation. Since Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world without a river, it has a great deal of interest in using nuclear energy for the desalination of water. Some time ago, I was gifted a fascinating book “Let There Be Water” by its author Mr. Seth M. Siegel. In his book, he discusses the remarkable success story of Israel in the realm of water technology. I was struck by the potential for cooperation, and believe that cooperation in water technology will be paramount to normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
In addition, The Saudis will surely find a partner to cooperate with them within the field of nuclear energy. Wouldn’t it be best if it was with the US? Although Riyadh has its eyes set on Washington, such a promising opportunity will attract the attention of many countries. The ball is truly in the court of the US government to decide if they want to partner with the Kingdom in the field of nuclear energy.
The second request is a security alliance of two different dimensions: the first being an agreement to not withhold advanced military purchases, and the second, more important dimension being to have a security umbrella that is similar to the one South Korea had in the 1950s. Some have argued that Israel isn’t comfortable with losing its so-called military edge. In the past few decades, Israelis have been convincing the US to withhold advanced weaponry from Israel’s neighbors due to a lack of friendly and diplomatic relations in the region. My impression has always been that this argument stems from Israel’s concern about maintaining the status of its competitive military edge. However, this reasoning will no longer stand if there is full normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel unless Israel wants the normalization for optics rather than substance.
The third request from the Saudis is for the US to provide something meaningful to the Palestinians that can pave the way for a two-state solution. Although this may seem like the most challenging request to fulfill, the Israelis should know that the Saudis cannot throw their Palestinian brothers under the bus.
The world is changing dramatically – the Middle East is no different. Judicious people should lead the change. They must leave behind all ideologies and tune out the noise made by extremists; at the same time, they must take courageous steps that can guide the Middle East and the world toward cooperation and healthy competition toward development rather than warfare and bloodshed.
I talked to Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and asked him about his views on Saudi-Israeli normalization. He suggests that “few events could do more to change the Middle East for the better than to see Saudi and Israeli leaders shaking hands on the White House lawn.” The current and next generations deserve to see the Middle East as “the new Europe,” as promised by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Yes, let there be peace. Yes, let there be a Samuel Accord.