Propose Israeli and Saudi Mutual Defense Treaty

Israelis, Jews everywhere, and hopefully, many non-Jews, are stunned by the devastating surprise attack by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023, 50 years after the traumatic Yom Kippur war of 1973. More than 1,200 Israelis were killed by Hamas and about 150 were taken hostage. Hamas has declared that every Israeli civilian is a soldier, and therefore a legitimate target for Hamas fighters. Israel can reply that since Hamas fighters do not wear uniforms, every civilian in Gaza is a legitimate target for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Unlike Hamas, the IDF does not intentionally target enemy civilians. Unlike Hamas, the IDF does not intentionally massacre people at a festival, slaughter families, kidnap civilians and hold them hostage. In contrast to many armies, the IDF tries to minimize civilian casualties. However, some civilian casualties are unavoidable as Hamas often hides fighters, weapons, and infrastructure inside hospitals, schools, mosques, and residential buildings.

Hamas has threatened to execute a hostage every time an airstrike hits Gaza homes without warning. (Of course, Hamas grants itself the unique privilege of firing rockets into Israeli homes without warning.) Perhaps the IDF will publicly remind the citizens of Gaza that if Hamas executes any hostages, the IDF has the capability to retaliate by executing an equal or greater number of Palestinians in Gaza. Such a reminder may diminish the willingness of Hamas to execute hostages by weakening support for Hamas by the civilians of Gaza.

Israelis are grateful to President Biden for calling the Hamas assault on Israel pure evil, declaring that Israel has the right to defend itself, and vowing that the U.S. will stand by Israel without equivocation. The U.S. has begun shipping military equipment to Israel to replenish its supplies. Although, some voices urge restraint, the military capability of Hamas must be eliminated to prevent Hamas from ever again repeating such a horrible assault on Israel.

Currently, the Jewish state is blockading Gaza, conducting airstrikes on Gaza, and massing troops on its border. Some analysts believe that the goal of the murderous surprise attack by Hamas was to diminish the likelihood of a U.S. brokered normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. A number of U.S. officials oppose the Saudi demand for a US security guarantee before Saudi Arabia will normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. Americans do not want to become bogged down in future Mideast wars. Israel, which has enjoyed a very close bond with the U.S. from its birth in 1948 to the present, has never asked for U.S. troops to guarantee its security. Israel will always rely on its own citizens to defend the Jewish state.

As an alternative to simply establishing diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, why doesn’t Israel offer to sign a mutual defense treaty with the kingdom, without the requirement of a U.S. security guarantee for Saudi Arabia? The kingdom would be protected by the strongest military in the Mideast, while an alliance with Saudi Arabia would deter attacks on Israel by Arab nations. Both nations confront a common foe, Iran, a radical Shiite Muslim nation. To motivate Saudi Arabia, a conservative Sunni Muslim nation, Israel would have to propose a time table for gradually ending the occupation of the West Bank by moving Jewish settlers to the Negev region of Israel. Israel would have to construct new housing in the Negev to accommodate relocated Jewish settlers. Israel would invite the West Bank government of the Palestine Authority to be a party to the mutual defense treaty. Saudi Arabia would donate money to build permanent housing to replace Palestinian refugee camps inside the West Bank. Gaza would be excluded from this treaty until such time as the Palestine Authority peacefully replaces a disarmed Hamas as the government of Gaza. This small organization could be enlarged by inviting Egypt, Jordan, and other Arab nations to join. Such a defensive organization could be called the Mideast Treaty Organization, or METO.

About the Author
Ted Sheskin is a professor emeritus of industrial engineering at Cleveland State University, and the author of a textbook, Markov Chains and Decision Processes for Engineers and Managers. He has published peer-reviewed papers on engineering systems and mathematical algorithms. His letters to editors addressing politics, economic policy, and issues facing Israel and American Jews have appeared in the NY Times, Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Jewish News, Jewish Week, the Forward, and Jewish Voice.
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