An Iranian allegation that Saudi Arabia is allowing Israel to use its territory in preparation for attacking Iran nuclear sites has stirred a flurry of reports in the Israeli media.
The allegation could not be independently confirmed, and the Saudis deny cooperating with the Israeli military.
The Jerusalem Post website on Sunday said reports that the Israeli military had established a base in Saudi Arabia originated with Iranian and Israeli news outlets. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Ha'aretz were among Israeli media carrying the reports credited to Fars, the semi-official Iranian news agency. The Fars report was also picked up buy international outlets such as UPI.
The reports said the Israeli base is about five miles from Tabuk in northwest Saudi Arabia.
The Islam Times said Israeli airplanes landed at an international airport and Israeli soldiers unloaded military equipment on June 18 and 19. Saudi officials canceled commercial air traffic and, one traveler told the Islam Times, paid to put up passengers in nearby four-star hotels to prevent them from expressing anger.
Tabuk, the closest Saudi city to Israel, is just south of Jordan, the Post said.
Earlier deal reported
The claim follows a report two weeks ago in the London Times Magazine that Saudi Arabia had given Israel permission to fly through a narrow corridor of airspace in northern Saudi Arabia to shorten the flight time Israeli jets need to reach Iran.
The London Times said that Saudi Arabia had adjusted its missile defense systems to ensure that Israeli jets are not shot down while passing through Saudi airspace on the way to an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
But Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf told the London-based Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that it would be “illogical to allow the Israeli occupying force, with whom Saudi Arabia has no relations whatsoever, to use its land and airspace,” the Post said.
The report that Israeli forces are being allowed on Saudi territory follows Arab media stories last week that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan canceled military cooperation agreements with Israel after Israel’s assault on a flotilla of Gaza-bound ships. The intervention ended in the death of nine Turkish activists.
The military agreements would have allowed Israeli jets to fly through Turkish airspace to Georgia and on to Iran, the Post said.
“Obviously there is much fear in the Arab world, and a clear understanding in Saudi Arabia as well as in Israel that a nuclear Iran is a great threat,” Dr. Ephraim Inbar, director of the Begin- Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Ramat Gan, told the Post.
However, he told the paper, he doubted the Saudis would want to get mixed up with an Israeli operation.
“They are afraid of Iran and if the Israeli action is not successful they would be vulnerable to Iranian retaliation,” Inbar told the Post, noting the news first came from Iran.
Maybe Iran is warning the Saudis it knows what's going, he suggested.
"It’s also possible that Saudi Arabia let the news out as a warning to America that if you don’t do something, we will,” he told the Post.
But several analysts were skeptical of a Saudi-Israeli alliance on Iran.
“It would be impossible for the Saudis to allow an Israeli attack on Iran,” Shafeeq Ghabra, a Gulf geopolitics expert at Kuwait University, told the Post. “For Saudi[s] to cooperate with a regime that is occupying Jerusalem, laying siege to Gaza and building settlements in the West Bank would undermine justice in the way the Saudis see it."