Dozens of Israeli personalities in the business and technology sector visit Saudi Arabia – reported

Dozens of Israeli entrepreneurs recently traveled to Saudi Arabia for advanced talks on Saudi investments in Israeli companies and investment funds, according to a report (in Hebrew) in the business newspaper Globes.

There are no official diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but secret relations have improved over the past few years, with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman believing Israel to be a strategic partner in the fight against Iranian influence in the region.

The kingdom refrained from signing the Washington-mediated Ibrahim treaty in 2020 as the United States and Israel had hoped, but Riyadh apparently gave the green light to Bahrain, where it exerted decisive influence, to abide by the normalization agreement with Israel. join. United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan. .

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In addition, after signing the agreements, Saudi Arabia began allowing Israeli airlines to use its airspace for flights to and from the UAE and Bahrain. But Israel has not yet received such benefits for flights to India, Thailand and China, which consequently stay much longer than they should.

Entrepreneurs and businessmen visiting Saudi Arabia recently entered the kingdom with Israeli passports containing special visas, according to the newspaper’s report on Thursday.

Since then, a number of agreements, in the civilian and defense sectors, have been signed between the Israelis and the Saudis in European and other countries, including a multi-million dollar deal in the agricultural technology sector and a second agreement for Israeli water technology solutions. Globes reported that Kingdom officials closely followed the developments of these two agreements.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaking at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday 14 December 2021 (Bandar Al Jaloud / Saudi Royal Palace via AP)

The Saudis also expressed their interest in Israeli medical solutions and health technology, as well as in Israeli “products”, according to the report, without going into details.

The report comes weeks after news came out that Saudi Arabia plans to allocate millions of dollars to invest in Israeli technology companies through Jared Kushner’s new private equity firm.

Kushner, the son-in-law and former adviser to former US President Donald Trump, founded Affinity Partners late last year and raised about $ 3 billion in funding from international investors, including the Saudis.

In this photo from August 13, 2020, Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser, speaks at a news conference at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik, File)

A Wall Street Journal report in early May said Riyadh wanted to invest in two Israeli companies, although the names of the two companies, or the sectors in which they operate, were not disclosed. The report said the investment “is the first known example that money from the Saudi public investment fund will be directed to Israel, in a sign of the kingdom’s growing willingness to do business with the country, despite their lack of to diplomatic relations. “

According to a Globes report on Thursday, Israeli businessmen have been traveling to Saudi Arabia for months on special entry visas at the invitation of Saudi entities. They visited the capital, Riyadh, as well as the city of NEOM hgl’gm on the Red Sea where the kingdom has big plans to integrate smart city technologies that could include Israeli solutions. NEOM is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a national blueprint for economic, social and cultural progress.

At the end of 2020, it was reported that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, along with other Israeli officials and then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, visited the city to meet the Crown Prince, in the first known high-level meeting between an Israeli and a Saudi leader.

An illustration of the planned city of NEOM in Saudi Arabia. (Neom.com)

Netanyahu and Cohen traveled to Saudi Arabia on the private plane of businessman Ehud Angel – the same plane that the then prime minister used on a secret visit to Oman in 2019, according to the Kan broadcaster.

Saudi sources said in a Globes report on Thursday that the authorities had noticed an increase in local requests to house Israeli businessmen in the kingdom.

Two US officials in Riyadh
Separately, Axios reported last week that two senior U.S. officials had traveled to Saudi Arabia for secret talks on an agreement that could strengthen Washington’s ties with Riyadh while bringing the kingdom closer to normalizing relations with Israel.

Axios, referring to three current and former U.S. officials, reported that U.S. National Security Council Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and State Department energy envoy Amos Hochstein arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for meetings with senior Saudi officials. officials.

Tiran Island in the Red Sea, Egypt, 10 February 2017 (AP / Nariman El-Mofty)

Two days earlier, Axios reported that the Biden administration was mediating talks aimed at ending the transfer of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.

In 2017, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified a treaty to hand over the islands to Saudi Arabia. The agreement resisted protests and legal challenges in Egypt, but was never finalized.

The two islands in the Red Sea appeared prominently in the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement, which promised safe passage for Israeli military and civilian ships through the narrow waterways of the Strait of Tiran.

Screenshot of Google Maps of Tiran Street with a pen indicating the location. (Screenshot / Google Maps)

As part of the 1979 agreement, Egypt agreed to demilitarize the two islands and allow a force of multinational observers led by the United States to patrol. Thus, their transfer to Saudi Arabia requires some Israeli acceptance to continue.

The Strait of Tiran is Israel’s only waterway from Eilat to the open sea, allowing shipping to and from Africa and Asia without the need to cross the Suez Canal, as well as passage to and from the Suez Canal.

Israel, however, gave its initial approval to transfer the two islands, but determined an agreed solution with respect to the multinational monitoring force, Axios reported, citing U.S. and Israeli sources.

U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East, Brett McGurk, and Ambassador to the Department of Energy Amos Hochstein. (AFP / photomontage)

The report said the multinational group had become a major bottleneck in the talks, with Riyadh agreeing to keep the two islands demilitarized while rejecting such power on its land so far. Instead, Riyadh offered a commitment to maintain complete freedom of navigation for ships through the Strait of Tiran.

Israeli negotiators have shown a willingness to relinquish multinational power, but have called for alternative security arrangements, according to the report.

Israel is also asking Saudi Arabia to take a number of steps to normalize relations with the Jewish state – that is, to allow additional Israeli flights to use Saudi airspace and to allow direct flights between Israel and Saudi Arabia so that Muslims can easily travel to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina from Ben Gurion Airport.

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