Dore Gold, the Director General of the Israel Foreign Ministry captured headlines when he described the Sunni Arab nations as "Israel's Allies." He was in New York (2015) lobbying against the proposed US-Iran deal which was finalised despite international objection.
He based his 'Israel's Allies' phrase on the agreement Israel had with Saudi Arabia, opposing the US-Iran proposal.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter enemies. They embody the divided rivalry within Islam between Sunni and Shia beliefs. The passionate battle rages because their prophet Mohammed died without leaving a successor. (1400 years ago).
Basically, the Sunni believe Abu Bakr the trusted friend and adviser to Mohammed was the appropriate successor. Shia believed the successor should come directly from within the family and so opted for cousin Ali.
In the Independent (UK) John Hall wrote: 'The tension is not eased by a Hadith (news or story) in which the Prophet was quoted as saying: "My Ummah (community) will be fragmented into seventy-three sects and all of them will be in the Hell fire except one." Inevitably both Sunnis and Shias claim to be the one "pure" Islamic sect."
Last year an article published by the Wall Street Journal suggested the intense rivalry now transcends theological differences and seeks to gain dominance politically in the Middle East
"The differences between groups in Islam have always existed, but it is only when you mix them with politics that it becomes really dangerousâdangerous like an atomic bomb," said Ihsan Bu-Huleiga, a Saudi economist who as a member of the kingdom's appointed legislature in 1996-2009 was one of the few members of its Shiite minority to hold a prominent political position," wrote Yaraslav Trofimov (WSJ May 14, 2015)
They are 'dangerous like an atomic bomb' sums up the severity of this scenario and it has drawn the Sunnis into a practical alliance with Israel.
In November, 2013 the Saudis agreed Israel could use its airspace and offered to 'provide drones, helicopters and tanker planes' for an attack on Iran. Both countries were concerned with the United States plan to find an agreement with Tehran.
Sudan is also heralding a new deal with Israel. In an Opinion piece for the Jerusalem Post (January 24, 2016) Seth J Frantzman wrote: "On January 21 Sudanese foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour said at a conference that "the matter of normalized relations with Israel is something that can be looked into."
His comments come in the wake of Sudan breaking off relations with Iran after the Saudi embassy in Iran was attacked and Saudi Arabia encouraged Sunni regimes to oppose Iran."
Frantzman summed up: "The Sunni Arab states that want Israel to help them confront Iran have proved incapable of doing so themselves. In Yemen the "grand alliance" of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and others, has relied on Columbian mercenaries, and King Salman of Saudi Arabia even asked Pakistan to send troops."
The Arab world is warming to the possibilities (anything to stop Iran). Kuwaitu media personality Yousuf 'Abd Al-Karim Al-Zinkawi just weeks ago called on all Arab and Muslim states to recognize Israel 'without delay.' He said they should stop referring to Israel as 'the Zionist Entity' or referring to 'the Israeli occupation.'
His article was published in the Kuwaiti daily Al Siyassa. He argued: "The very presence of the Arab and Islamic States in the UN General Assembly, under the same roof as the Israeli delegations means .... they recognize Israel," he wrote.
Now a Palestinian author has condemned anti-Semitism and embraced Israelis. Author Ounallah Abu Safieh said on Palestinian Authority TV "Do I hear that I have to hate the Jew because he is a Jew? No!" (PA TV March 14, 2016)
He argued that from a religious perspective, God is one and the source of all religion. He also argued that in the past, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together and that Muslim leaders often had Jewish advisors:
"I also see that all of us are from one source, even the religions. The source of religion is one, and what is added, was created by man, in his opinion. It is something that we men created, which caused one to be a Shi'ite, one to be a Sunni, one a Christian, and one a Jew. Originally He is one." Salah Al-Din's doctor was a Jew. In the kingdom of Muslim Spain, all of the advisors in Muslim Spain, the advisors of the kings and rulers were Jews, those in charge of the treasury and economy and information." This from a report by the Palestinian Media Watch (pmw.org)
His reasoning is clear, God created all of us in His own image and that includes everyone.
In April this year, 80-year-old Saudi King Salman visited Egypt for talks with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. During the talks Egypt agreed to handing over two islands in the Straits of Tiran into Saudi territory.
On TV King Salman said: "The other mission that we should work on together is the fight against extremism and the fight against terrorism."
He was speaking about new Saudi policy. Months ago they formed a new anti-terrorism coalition and with its members, they will share intelligence, counter violent ideology and deploy troops if necessary.
In all of this Israel has signalled it has no protest.
Israeli lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi spoke on Israel's Army Radio. Regarding the transfer of the islands he said: " It relates to us and it does not bother us. The Saudis, who are committed to freedom of shipping under international law, will not harm the essence of the agreement between Egypt and us in this regard and freedom of shipping in Aqaba and Eilat will remain as is."
There is reason to be encouraged by the growing fellowship between former adversaries. It brings to mind the biblical promise to Israel: "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life." (Psalm chapter 138, verse 7)
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.
His career started at WINTV (Email: email@example.com)
Ron Ross' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html