Veteran former Israeli diplomat Mark Regev thinks Australia could be uniquely placed to help Israel normalise relations with Indonesia if a deal normalising relations is reached with Saudi Arabia.
Regev told The AJN after an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council lunch in Melbourne recently that there is a real potential to expand the circle of peace, with US President Biden speaking about the potential of a movement on the Israeli–Saudi track. And Regev says Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is eager to pursue this possibility.
“I think … Saudi normalisation is possible, maybe even probable, because there’s a unique convergence of interests,” he said.
US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told CNN recently that the Biden administration has had productive conversations with the Saudi and Israeli governments about potential normalisation, but no deal has been reached.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that the US and Saudi Arabia have agreed on the “broad contours” of a normalisation deal.
Regev, who is a former Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom and currently chair of the Abba Eban Institute for Diplomacy and Foreign Relations at Reichman University in Herzliya, believes a breakthrough with Saudi Arabia would be a game-changer because the Saudis have a special status in the Arab world, and in the larger Islamic world, and if the country was to normalise relations with Israel, he believes others would follow.
Regev believes an Israel–Saudi normalisation would have a major positive effect in the wider Arab and Muslim world, even in our part of the world.
“Amongst mainstream Muslim opinion, it could well … affect people’s attitudes to Israel. I think it can also affect many Muslim majority countries, some of them close to Australia, who have up until now not wanted to formalise relations with Israel.”
Regev believes that if the Saudis move, others in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia will follow suit, and the Australian government could play a key role in helping normalise relations between Israel and Indonesia.
“I am sure that considering the strong relations Australia has with some Muslim majority countries in the neighbourhood, that you could make a difference. And this could be … the first time in history that Australia was playing a role in helping to cement Middle East peace,” he said.
There are no diplomatic ties between Israel and Indonesia, but after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Israel offered humanitarian aid to Indonesia, which was accepted.