Zvi Yehezkeli is an Israeli television journalist and documentarian, who is an Arab affairs correspondent and head of the Arab desk at Israel’s channel 13 News.
Zvi Yehezkeli Speaking Tour
Yehezkeli is often on a world speaking tour. While in Los Angeles, in March 2023, I had the honor to interview him. I wanted us to talk about topics that he does not normally speak about when he appears publicly. And that is what we did.
We started with the recent news that Saudi Arabia and Iran’s seven years frozen relations are thawing. The two Muslim countries, Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia surprised the world with an agreement to normalize ties. The two largest Middle Eastern nations by area, will resume diplomatic relations and each plans to reopen embassies in the other country within two months.
NG: “What is this all about,” I asked Zvi.
ZY: It is not about either Iran or Saudi Arabia. It is in fact showing the middle finger, a gesture of contempt, to Joseph Biden, to the American administration. The reason is, the Shia and the Sunni factions of Islam have 1350 years of an abysmal level of hatred toward each other.
The hopeful end goal of the Iranians is to topple the House of Saud, the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia, composed of the descendants of Muhammad bin Saud, founder of the Emirate of Diriyah, known as the First Saudi state, and his brothers.
Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, colloquially known by his initials MBS, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, knows where his country’s interests lie and he is known to be a covert strategic partner of Israel. MBS is a revolutionary person who has a broad modernization vision for his kingdom.
The agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia is a declarative statement with China as the broker. In other words, both Iran and Saudi Arabia are turning their heads east. Here China scores.
This collaboration reduces tensions in the Middle East between two regional powers and it demonstrates China’s growing influence on the world stage.
The tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are deeply rooted in history and religion. Saudi Arabia has historically followed the Sunni branch of Islam, while Iran has followed the Shia branch. The split between the two branches of Islam dates back to the seventh-century, when it arose amid debates over who the rightful successor to the Prophet Mohammed was.
Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the rise of Ruhollah Khomeini to power, to rule as the ayatollah, the government and religious leadership were brought together under Shia Islam in Iran.
Since then, Iran and Saudi Arabia, though have not directly entered an armed conflict, have engaged in a series of proxy conflicts.
It is the battle over Muhammad’s Islam legacy and Islam was born into it.
Another issue is the October 2, 2018, murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident journalist who was assassinated by the Saudi government’s agents at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi was ambushed and strangled by a 15-member squad of Saudi assassins. His body was dismembered and disposed of.
MBS is full of revenge that the USA humiliated him in this matter and he was waiting for the right time to get revenge.
On Friday, July 15, 2022 Joseph Biden met with MBS and the murder of Khashoggi was the most sensitive issue they discussed. Though US intelligence concluded that MBS was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder – an allegation Saudi officials deny, Biden once vowed to make the Gulf kingdom a “pariah,” and U.S.-Saudi relations have been strained over a number of issues, including the murder of Khashoggi.
In a press conference that Friday, Biden said he opened his meeting with MBS by bringing up Khashoggi’s murder. He told the crown prince “very straightforwardly” that “for an American president to be silent on the issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am.”
There is great disdain for the USA in the Middle East. Iran and Saudi Arabia walking on the same path is a humiliating act aimed at the United States.
It is the west facing the east. The west’s way of thinking is condescension, hubris and paternalism; I will tell you what is good for you. It is American arrogance and pride that thinks that the entire world needs to be just like it is a problem to the Middle East. There is a total disconnect and lack of understanding of the ethnic tribal culture and disrespect of others’ way of thinking, culture and ethos that causes this disdain. Also the west does not understand what religion is and its grip on people in the Middle East.
Zvi Yehezkeli Interview
Nurit Greenger: “What about Iran getting closer to being able to manufacture a nuclear bomb that directly threatens Israel,” I asked.
Zvi Yehezkeli: I am anxious that Iran is progressing to having a nuclear bomb. What is more frightening is that no one in the world cares. It is extremely worrisome. Israel is alone in this mess having to prepare for whatever it takes to defend itself.
NG: “What is happening in Israel right now with the ongoing protests?”
ZY: “It is in fact a war between Israelis and Jews who believe in Jewish essence,” Yeheskeli, who is a believing Jew tries to explain a very complicated issue. “The confusion in Israel is worrying. The story of the State of Israel is the Jewish story.”
The reality is sharpening and we have to face it. Everything comes out of the political discourse and all clash.
One has to listen to what the Middle East has to say about itself in order to talk about it. Take for example the Abraham Accords, a series of defense agreement treaties normalizing diplomatic relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, facilitated by the U.S. Administration between August and December, 2020.
NG: “Is there a possibility to achieve peace?”
ZY: In the Middle East there will not be peace. There will not be peace with the people calling themselves “Palestinians” who never accepted Israel’s existence.
More so, the Arabs in Israel are a ticking bomb to the state’s internal security.
Once I was told by an Egyptian that the formula is to be strong and shut up. We, Israel, speak Yiddish, which is our power, and the Arabs need to learn to translate this power. And there is room for maneuvering.
We, in Israel, have allowed for terror. Only when our back is against the wall, the real Jew will appear in all of us. Right now the good life in Israel is to our detriment and it harms us.
Strong people create a comfortable reality and a comfortable reality creates weak people. The comfortable life Israel offers now has made the people in Israel weak.
Though Israel faces challenges, none are existential. The only existential one is what is happening inside Israel with the Arabs. The Israelis do not define nor understand that the Arabs are the enemy.
If they define it they will wake up. But Israel has become too westernized and the society refuses to wake up to its existential reality.
Every Israeli wants a routine and peaceful life, so they buy peace till all will explode. The bomb is ticking and the explosion is nearing. “Not on my watch!” says the man who for years has been exposing the truth about Islam and the Arabs in Israel and has become a media treasure worldwide.