In some ways, the kingdom is far more politically accountable than Arab countries that underwent revolutions in 2011: Traditional governance structures in many parts of the kingdom still prevail, and the role of the provincial governor in attending the daily majlis to address the problems and needs of his constituents is still highly important in maintaining ties between the people and the ruling elite.
It would have been unthinkable, for instance, for a normal citizen to be given the right to petition directly to former President Hosni Mubarak, or even current President Mohamed Morsy -- such is the enforced bureaucratic distance between the citizens and the ruling class in Egypt. Not so in Saudi Arabia, where one can observe tribal elders lambasting rather forlorn-looking princes for not addressing the country's problems.
Granted, for those citizens in the urban sprawls of Dammam, Jeddah, and Riyadh the connection appears more distant -- but even there, Saudis are not about to erupt in mass revolt. By and large, Saudi citizens are not inculcated with a culture of protest and mass civil disobedience.
Young, urbanized Saudis -- who are increasingly making their voices heard on Twitter and Facebook -- have largely directed their ire at individuals like Hamza Kashgari for his "atheist" tendencies, or conversely at conservative sheikhs. Much has been made of the infamous @mujtahidd Twitter account, which has certainly set tongues wagging with accounts of scurrilous royal gossip -- but even then incitement to mass unrest is largely absent from any of the tweets he or she posts.
The unrest in the Eastern Province is serious and in need of urgent redress -- but this longstanding issue is almost totally confined to that area, and has not served as a progenitor for the flames of protest in other regions.
Furthermore, those who predict the fall of the House of Saud often forget one important fact. For nearly 15 years, the ruling family has been battling a serious threat to its legitimacy from the forces of Islamic extremism. One can go back as far as 1979, which saw hundreds of radicals seize the Grand Mosque in Mecca, to see the roots of the issues that plague the kingdom's internal security.
In a country where religion is a hugely important part of everyday life, there is almost nothing as threatening to the royal house as those who seek to prove that the kingdom has strayed from the Islamic path.
True, the insurrection of a limited number of al Qaeda dissidents -- numbering at most in the low thousands -- may seem like a small matter in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians that flocked to Tahrir Square, or the more than 60,000 deaths that have followed the uprisings against Bashar al-Assad in Syria. But the jihadist movement nevertheless represented an existential threat for the kingdom because it struck at the heart of the foundation for the regime's legitimacy. By overcoming it, the House of Saud has proved its resiliency.
Put aside notions of Saudi Arabia's imminent collapse -- it isn't going to happen. The kingdom will play an integral role in reshaping the post-revolutionary Middle East, whether people like it or not. The oil will keep pumping, the arms sales will keep flowing, and for now, the kingdom's huge economic surpluses will be enough to stave off the societal hounds from barking at the door. Last but not least, the House of Saud will hand the reins of power to the next generation without an internal civil war. In the end, it's not any one royal who rules the kingdom -- it is stability that is ultimately king in Saudi Arabia.