• Friday, May 14, 2021
  • Last Update : 01:03 am

Saudi silent over Israel deal but covert ties under focus

  • Published at 01:37 pm August 17th, 2020
Mohammed bin Salman Benjamin Netanyahu
File photo: Mohammed bin Salman and Benjamin Netanyahu AFP

Gulf states have increasingly sought Israeli technology for the surveillance of their own citizens and to purchase precision missiles that Western countries are unwilling to sell

The UAE's decision to normalize ties with Israel could propel Saudi Arabia to deepen its furtive relations with the Jewish state as Riyadh seeks to entice investments to fund an ambitious economic transformation, analysts say.

The United Arab Emirates on Thursday became the first Gulf state to normalize relations with Israel, in a historic US-brokered accord that raised the prospect of similar deals with other Arab states.

Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's biggest economy, has maintained a conspicuous silence over the deal, but local officials have hinted that Riyadh is unlikely to immediately follow in the footsteps of its principle regional ally.

However, "the UAE-Israeli normalisation lends itself to expanding the realm of indirect Saudi-Israeli relations," said Aziz Alghashian, a lecturer at Essex University specialising in the kingdom's policy towards Israel.

Home to Islam's holiest sites, Saudi Arabia would face sensitive political calculations before a formal recognition of the Jewish state.

Like the UAE's move, such a step would be seen by Palestinians and their supporters as a betrayal of their cause.

But the kingdom has already cultivated covert ties with Israel in recent years, a shift spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman even as his father King Salman has voiced steadfast support for an independent Palestinian state.

A shared animosity towards Iran, along with Saudi attempts to attract foreign investment to fund Prince Mohammed's ambitious Vision 2030 economic diversification plan, appear to be pushing the kingdom closer to Israel than ever.

A centrepiece of Vision 2030 is NEOM, a $500 billion planned megacity on the kingdom's west coast, for which observers say the kingdom requires Israeli expertise in areas including manufacturing, biotechnology and cyber security.

The creation of NEOM "requires peace and coordination with Israel, especially if the city is to have a chance of becoming a tourist attraction," said Mohammad Yaghi, a research fellow at Germany's Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

NEOM is set to be built close to the Israeli resort town of Eilat, along the geopolitically sensitive waters of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.

'Integral part'

Gulf states have increasingly sought Israeli technology for the surveillance of their own citizens and to purchase precision missiles that Western countries are unwilling to sell, Yaghi wrote in a research paper in April.

Saudi Arabia has sought to keep its outreach to Israel out of the public eye, but it has not been easy.

In June, a verified Twitter account linked to the kingdom's embassy in Washington said the Saudi council of ministers had agreed to recruit Israeli cyber security firm Check Point Software in NEOM.

The embassy later denied the claim and distanced itself from the account.

Marc Schneier, an American rabbi with close ties to the  Gulf, quoted Saudi Arabia's deputy defence minister Prince Khalid bin Salman as once telling him that Israel was an "integral part" of achieving Vision 2030.

Schneier made the comment to AFP in May, and Saudi authorities did not dispute that the prince made the remark.

Despite the official silence, the pro-government Saudi media has repeatedly tested public reaction by publishing reports advocating closer ties with Israel.

Shachar, who according to his LinkedIn profile was previously employed by the Israeli defence ministry, was referring to a regional equivalent of Silicon Valley.

 

54
Facebook 52
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail