Reports of growing ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia have picked up in recent years. And now the two look set for further rapprochement, at least behind closed doors, as tensions in the Middle East escalate and interests among regional players create new geostrategic alliances.
"Overt cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel seems unlikely, but an expansion of covert contacts and planning is highly likely," David Ottaway, Middle East fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., told CNBC on Friday.
Saudi Arabia's fairly muted reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday — an official statement expressed "disappointment" in the decision — revealed both a continued desire to stay in Trump's good graces as well as a reluctance to stoke conflict with Israel, with which it officially does not have diplomatic relations.
The Saudi government officially does not recognize Israel's existence as a state, and its powerful Wahhabi Muslim clergy is extremely hostile to the idea of a Jewish state. Yet a growing will to cooperate from both sides has become an open secret.