Change sweeping across the Middle East has prompted several Sunni Arab states to engage more closely with Israel. Shared strategic threats – the growing threat posed by Iran and its allies, the expanding threat of Sunni Jihadism, and US retrenchment – are key drivers, especially for Gulf states, whilst shared opportunities in energy and trade are also factors for Egypt and Jordan.
Israel’s security cooperation with Egypt and Jordan, with which Israel has full diplomatic relations, is deeper and more intense than appears on the surface. Israel’s cooperation with Egypt has intensified around Egypt’s struggle against ISIS-affiliated armed groups in the Sinai, who have developed cooperation with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel has allowed Egyptian military deployment beyond the terms of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty and there are even reports of coordinated Israeli drone strikes in Sinai. Egypt returned its Ambassador to Israel in January 2016, after a three-year hiatus, and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry paid a rare visit in July 2016, underlining the warming political relationship.
The potential for economic relations between Israel and both Egypt and Jordan has also increased. In the energy sector, Israel’s development of natural gas resources makes it a cheap potential source of energy for Jordan, and a potential partner for Egypt both as a supplier, and a partner in export infrastructure. Meanwhile the collapse of Syria has raised the significance of Israel as a transit option for trade from Europe and Turkey to Jordan and the Gulf.