Israel on Sunday announced that it would permit Israeli citizens to travel to Saudi Arabia for the first time, under certain conditions that include Israeli entrepreneurs seeking investments, in a signal of warming ties.
Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, after consulting the country’s security establishment, issued a statement saying that Israelis would be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia under two circumstances: for religious reasons on pilgrimage on the haj, or for up to nine days for business reasons such as investment or meetings.
Travelers would still need an invitation and permission from the Saudi authorities, the statement said.
Israel has peace treaties with two Arab countries — Egypt and Jordan — but concerns over Iran’s influence in the region have led to thawing ties with the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Pakistan as well.
“MBS is keen on the idea. He comes from a new generation and does not feel the weight of history on his shoulders. He has shown this repeatedly. He has no particular sympathy with the Palestinian cause,”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been looking to capitalize on common interests like Iran while also marketing Israeli technologies to try and further normalize relations.
The task force noted the absence of any real reaction on the Arab street to the recent visits of Netanyahu and Israeli government ministers and athletes to the Gulf states of Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is reported to be “seriously considering” setting up a “game-changing” Camp David-style summit meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with US President Donald Trump playing host.
In 2018, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for a commercial flight to Israel with the start of a new Air India route between New Delhi and Tel Aviv, although national carrier El Al Israel Airlines may not use Saudi airspace for eastward flights.
Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to be unusually excited on the sidelines of the Likud party conference on 26 December 2019, smiling widely despite the troubles he is facing with politics and the law. The cause of such excitement was a video call, on his personal phone, with someone in a powerful Saudi Arabia, allegedly Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
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