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Dozens of Israeli business and technology experts visit Saudi Arabia – report

Dozens of Israeli tech entrepreneurs and businessmen have recently flown to Saudi Arabia for advanced talks about Saudi Arabian investments in Israeli companies and Israeli investment funds, according to a report. statement (Hebrew) Daily in the Globes business.

Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have official diplomatic relations, but clandestine relations have heated up in recent years as Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly views Israel as a strategic partner in the fight against Iranian influence in the region.

The Kingdom avoided signing the Washington-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020, as the US and Israel had hoped, but Riyadh believed allowing Bahrain, where it has decisive influence, to join the normalization agreement with Israel, alongside the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan.

In addition, after the agreements were signed, Saudi Arabia began allowing Israeli airlines to use its airspace for round-trip flights to the UAE and Bahrain. But Israel has not yet received such access for flights to India, Thailand and China, which is significantly longer than it should be as a result.

Businessmen and entrepreneurs who have made recent visits to Saudi Arabia have entered the kingdom with Israeli passports that contain a special visa, according to Thursday’s Globes report.

Since then, a number of agreements have been signed between Israelis and Saudis in Europe and elsewhere, both in the civil and defense sectors, the report said. technology solution. Globes said Kingdom officials are closely following the developments of these two agreements.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 14, 2021. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP)

The Saudis have also expressed interest in Israeli “products” alongside Israeli medical and health technology solutions.

The report came weeks after Saudi Arabia was said to be. plans to spend millions Dollars for investments in Israeli technology companies through Jared Kushner’s new private equity firm.

Kushner, son-in-law and a former senior adviser to former US President Donald Trump, founded Affinity Partners late last year and approximately $3 billion in committed fund From international investors, including Saudis.

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

In early May, a Wall Street Journal report said Riyadh is eyeing two Israeli companies for investment, although the firms’ names and industries were not disclosed. The report said the investment was “the first known example of where the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s cash will be diverted to Israel.”

For months, Israeli businessmen have been flying to Saudi Arabia on special entry visas at the invitation of Saudi establishments, Globes reported on Thursday. They visited the capital, Riydah, as well as Neom, a Red Sea town where the kingdom had big plans. Combine smart city technologies It could include Israeli solutions. Neom is part of Saudi Vision 2030, the kingdom’s national blueprint for economic, social and cultural progress.

In late 2020, he was rumored to be with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, other Israeli officials, and then-US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. visited the city to meet with the crown prince at 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)

According to public broadcaster Kan, Netanyahu and Cohen had traveled to Saudi Arabia on the private plane of businessman Ehud Angel.

Saudi sources in Thursday’s Globes newspaper said authorities are seeing an increase in local demands to welcome Israeli businessmen in the kingdom.

US officials in Riyadh

Separately, an Axios report released last week revealed that a pair of senior US officials went to saudi arabia For secret talks on a deal that could strengthen Washington’s ties with Riyadh while also bringing the kingdom closer to normalizing relations with Israel.

US National Security Council Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and State Department energy envoy Amos Hochstein traveled to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to meet with senior Saudi officials.

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

Two days ago, Axios reported that the Biden administration was mediating negotiations aimed at completing the transfer of the Red Sea islands Tirana and Sanafir from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.

In 2017, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi approved an agreement that provided for the transfer of the islands to Saudi Arabia. The deal endured protests and legal challenges in Egypt, but was never finalized.

The two Red Sea islands occupy an important place in the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement signed in 1979, which promised Israeli civil and military vessels safe passage through the narrow waterways of the Strait of Tiran.

A screenshot from Google Maps with a location pin from the Strait of Tiran. (Screenshot/Google Maps)

As part of the 1979 agreement, Egypt agreed to demilitarize the islands and allow a US-led multinational observer force to patrol the islands. Their transfer to Saudi Arabia therefore requires some degree of Israeli involvement in order to move forward.

The Strait of Tiran is Israel’s only water crossing from Eilat to the Red Sea and allows Israeli ships to travel to and from Africa and Asia without requiring transit through the Suez Canal, as well as from Eilat to and through the Suez Canal for Mediterranean cruises. gives.

However, Axios reported that, citing US and Israeli sources, Israel gave its approval in principle to the island transfer, while conditioned it to find an agreed solution on the multinational observer force.

Brett McGurk, Middle East coordinator of the US National Security Council, and Amos Hochstein, energy ambassador for the State Department. (AP/collage)

The report said the multinational team has become the main issue in the talks, as Riyadh has agreed to demilitarize the islands, but has so far refused such a force on its territory. Instead, Riyadh has pledged to ensure complete freedom of navigation for ships passing through the Strait of Tiran.

According to the report, Israeli negotiators showed their willingness to abandon the multinational power but sought alternative security arrangements.

Jerusalem is also asking Saudi Arabia to take a series of steps to normalize ties with the Jewish state – namely, allowing additional Israeli flights to use Saudi airspace and allowing 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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