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Israel instructs diplomats to support Saudis: Cable

Israel instructs diplomats to support Saudis: Cable
From Al Jazeera - November 10, 2017

Nazareth -Israel has instructed its overseas embassies to lobby their respective host countries in support of Saudi Arabia and its apparent efforts to destabilise Lebanon, a recently leaked diplomatic cable shows.

The cable appears to be the first formal confirmation of rumours that Israel and Saudi Arabia are colluding to stoke tensions in the region.

Sent by the Israeli foreign ministry and disclosed by Israel's Channel 10 news this week, the cable demanded that diplomats stress Iran and Hezbollahs engagement in "regional subversion".

That closely echoes accusations Riyadh levelled against Tehran and the Lebanese faction in recent days.

Some analysts have noted that diplomatic moves by Israel to intervene directly in a seemingly internal Arab matter are "very rare".

Yossi Alpher, a former adviser to Ehud Barak when he was Israeli prime minister, called the cable "extremely presumptuous".

"Do the Saudis really need Israel to put in a good word for them in capitals around the world?" he told Al Jazeera.

But others believe Benjamin Netanyahu, theIsraeli prime minister,who also heads the foreign ministry that issued the cable, may be looking to gain from an uptick in uncertainty in the region.

War of words

The cable comes as Saudi Arabia has dramatically escalated its rhetoric against Iran and Hezbollah.

On Thursday, the Saudi foreign ministry told its nationals to leave Lebanon immediately after it accused Hezbollah earlier in the week of "declaring war" on the kingdom.

That followed the resignation of Saad Hariri as Lebanons prime minister.

A politician with close personal and business ties to Saudi Arabia, Hariri announced his departurewhile in Riyadh.

He accused Iran of building "a state within a state" in Lebanon through Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia group which is represented in the parliament and has a strong military wing.

There are widespread suspicions that Riyadh ordered Hariri to step down as a way to destablise Lebanon, whose complex and fragile political set-up has struggled to contain sharp sectarian divisions.

Saudi Arabia has also implicated Hezbollah in the launching of what it says was an Iranian-made rocket from Yemen that was intercepted over Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has been waging a war in Yemen against the Houthis, a Shia minority, and has accused Iran of fomenting and supporting the Houthis.

The cable

The leaked cable instructed Israeli diplomats "to stress that the Hariri resignation shows how dangerous Iran and Hezbollah are for Lebanon's security".

The diplomats were told to appeal to the "highest officials" in their host countries to press for Hezbollahs expulsion from the Lebanese government.

"Hariri's resignation proves wrong the argument that Hezbollah participation in the government stabilises Lebanon," the cable says.

It further called on Israeli diplomats to back Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen, emphasising that the missile directed at Riyadh required "more pressure on Iran and Hezbollah".

Menachem Klein, a politics professor at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv, said that it was likely Netanyahu expected and wanted the cable to go public.

"If you send a diplomatic cable and start lobbying every foreign capital, you have to expect that it wont remain private for long," he told Al Jazeera.

"Netanyahu's aim was to make clear to the Saudis that he can help. The message is, 'We have special relations with Western countries and we can help you advance your political goals against Iran and Hezbollah, which we share'."

Risking confrontation

But some say Israel risks being jostled by Saudi Arabia into an unnecessary and dangerous confrontation with Hezbollah as the result of what Israeli commentator Amos Harel this week described as Riyadhs "ambitious attempt to reach a new regional order".

In a column in Israeli daily Haaretz this week, Daniel Shapiro, a former US ambassador to Israel, argued that the Saudis were trying to move the battlefield from Syria to Lebanon after their failure to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A six-year civil war there has dragged in a range of proxies.

Lebanon vulnerable?

'Coalition-building'

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