The agreement signed between Saudi Arabia and Iran mediated by China grabbed international headlines last week. While in other countries the event received headlines as a regular news report, in Israel, this news was received differently, in a manner that may be understandable, only contrary to common perception.
Israel has nothing to worry about. The struggle between Israel and Iran is no secret, as is Iran's desire to see Israel destroyed. This is a long-term conflict that also includes other countries as part of a struggle for values and worldviews, with both nations striving to widen the circle of nations that are on their side.
However, contrary to what many might assume, the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran does not mean much in relation to the struggle between Israel and Iran. It is true that Israel looks at any such political agreements through the prism of the conflict with Iran and its interests therein. This is understandable because it is seen as an existential conflict.
For many years, there have been reports of secret ties and shared interests between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish State. Recently, and especially after the signing of the Abraham Accords, and against the background of the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, when the Islamic Republic functions as a common enemy, there have been talks, even if unofficial, about making the secret relations more public.
This was the mindset when Donald Trump was in power, and normalization was in the air. Unfortunately, this changed direction with the change of administration in the US.
The U.S. distanced itself from Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and perhaps out of a desire for revenge, Saudi Arabia did not comply with the US request to increase oil production and ease the rise of oil prices after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
When Saudi Arabia realized that relations with the U.S. were not improving, it became relevant in the eyes of the rival to America, China. And that's really the story.
In Israel, the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran grabbed headlines due to the fear that Iran would become stronger, and progress further on its nuclear program, which is gaining momentum anyway. The assumption is that such an agreement distances the open peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel. However, practically speaking, it will have little effect.
The agreement signed between China-Iran-Saudi Arabia is mainly about China, which wants to strengthen its international status. Saudi Arabia will not stop seeing Iran as a rival and will not end its secret relations with Israel. Perhaps it will take advantage of the situation to reduce the never-ending civil war in Yemen, but this is now China's problem.
In 2011, under Barack Obama, the U.S. adopted a similar policy towards the Saudis, and also then there was an attempt to strengthen relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This was also against the backdrop of a Saudi understanding that the US is no longer as relevant a player for it.
The competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran is part of a long-standing struggle that goes to the roots of the enmity between Sunnis and Shiites, and just as previous attempts by the countries to normalize relations between them failed, so this attempt is also expected to fail, or at the very least, not harm Israel's interests.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.