Dozens of Israeli businessmen and technologists visit Saudi Arabia – report
Dozens of Israeli entrepreneurs and tech 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 Globes Business daily.
There are no official diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but secret relations have improved in recent years as Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, reportedly saw Israel as a strategic partner in the fight against Iranian influence in the region.
The kingdom refrained from signing the Washington-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020 as the United States and Israel had hoped, but Riyadh is believed to have given the green light for Bahrain, where it retains crucial influence, to join the normalization agreement with Israel alongside Israel. United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan.
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 had such access to flights to India, Thailand and China, which as a result have been much longer than it needs.
Businessmen and businessmen who visited Saudi Arabia recently entered the kingdom on Israeli passports containing special visas, Globes reported Thursday.
The report stated that since then a number of agreements have been signed, in the civil and defense sectors, 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 deal for Israeli water. technical solution. Globus said that the Kingdom’s officials closely followed the developments of these two deals.
The Saudis also expressed interest in Israeli medical solutions and health technology, as well as Israeli “products,” according to the report, without going into details.
The report comes weeks after Saudi Arabia was said to be planning to allocate millions of dollars to invest in Israeli technology companies via new private equity firm Jared Kushner.
Kushner, the son-in-law and former adviser to former US President Donald Trump, established Affinity Partners late last year, raising about $3 billion in committed funding from international investors, including the Saudis.
A Wall Street Journal report in early May said Riyadh is looking to invest in two Israeli companies, although neither the names of the companies, nor the sectors they operate in were disclosed. The report said that the investment was “the first known example that Saudi Public Investment Fund money will be directed to Israel, in reference to the kingdom’s growing desire to do business with the state, despite the lack of diplomatic relations between them.”
According to a Globes report on Thursday, Israeli businessmen have, for months, been traveling to Saudi Arabia on special entry visas at the invitation of Saudi entities. They visited the capital, Riyadh, as well as the city of NEOM 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.
In late 2020, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, along with other Israeli officials and then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, were said to have visited the city to meet with the crown prince, in the first known high-profile meeting. A level meeting between an Israeli and a Saudi leader.
Netanyahu and Cohen traveled to Saudi Arabia on businessman Ehud Angel’s private plane — the same plane the then prime minister used on a secret visit to Oman in 2019, according to public broadcaster Kan.
Saudi sources said in a Globes report on Thursday that the authorities had noticed a slight increase in local requests to host Israeli businessmen in the kingdom.
US officials in Riyadh
Separately, an Axios report last week said two senior US officials traveled to Saudi Arabia for secret talks about a deal that could boost Washington’s ties with Riyadh while bringing the kingdom closer to normalizing relations with Israel.
Citing three current and former US officials, Axios reported that the US National Security Council’s Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and State Department energy envoy Amos Hochstein arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for meetings with senior Saudi officials.
Two days ago, 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 el-Sisi ratified a treaty providing for the islands to be handed over to Saudi Arabia. The deal withstood protests and legal challenges in Egypt but was never finalised.
The two islands in the Red Sea feature prominently in the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement, which promises safe passage for Israeli military and civilian ships through the narrow waterways of the Straits of Tiran.
As part of the 1979 deal, Egypt agreed to demilitarize the islands and allow a force of multinational observers led by the United States to patrol them. Thus, moving them to Saudi Arabia would require a degree of Israeli acceptance in order to move forward.
The Strait of Tiran is Israel’s only waterway from Eilat to the Red Sea, allowing Israeli shipping to and from Africa and Asia without the need to pass through the Suez Canal, as well as passage from Eilat to and from the Suez Canal for Mediterranean cruises.
However, Israel offered its agreement in principle to transfer the island, while conditioned it to find an agreed solution on the multinational monitoring force, Axios reported, citing US and Israeli sources.
The report said the multinational group turned out to be a major sticking point in the talks, with Riyadh agreeing to keep the islands demilitarized while so far rejecting such a force on its soil. Instead, Riyadh offered a commitment to maintain complete freedom of navigation for ships through the Straits of Tiran.
Israeli negotiators showed a willingness to relinquish the multinational force but requested alternative security arrangements, according to the report.
Jerusalem is also asking Saudi Arabia to take a number of steps toward normalizing relations with the Jewish state — that is, 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.