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Saudi Arabia may soon normalize relations with Israel

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jewish State, Jerusalem, Riyadh, Hamas, Fatah

Opinion

Saudi Arabia may soon normalize relations with Israel

Saudi Arabia, the leader of Muslim world is going to normalize relations with Israel soon, while the two nations also are signing comprehensive defense agreements by this month. Such new mood in the Kingdom’s policy towards the Jewish State is a result of dynamic policies adopted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who already is praised for his reform policies that possibly is going to transform a number of Saudi cities into hub of international trade and tourism soon.

Veteran Israeli journalist Yoav Limor recently visited Saudi Arabia, where he did not hide his country of origin. He was pleasantly surprised to find not the heart of darkness, but a cheerful reception wherever he went. In his article titled ‘Profound change in Saudi Arabia could bode well for future Jerusalem-Riyadh ties’ in Israel Hayom, Yoav Limor wrote:

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On Sunday night, while in a restaurant in Riyadh, a local young man sitting next to me asked me from where I was. “Israel,” I replied. He laughed, and moved on. Shortly before leaving, he looked at me again and asked, “Israel, really?” I said “yes,” to which he replied, “Wow, welcome. We welcome everyone here happily, from all religions.”

Saudi Arabia was a pleasant surprise. Friendly. Happy. Not even mentioning Israel brought anyone down. I tested this on several cab drivers and market vendors. Some smiled and shook their head in disbelief or worry, others were curious and struck up a conversation. I wondered if any of them had ever met an Israeli before, or heard Hebrew, but no one made us feel unwelcome in the kingdom, home to the holiest sites of Islam, not even for a moment.

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US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia will not lead to formal ties between the two nations. Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia next Friday, after having visited Israel. In the resort city of Jeddah, he will meet with all the leaders of the Gulf states and several other prominent Arab leaders, but more importantly, he will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, effectively ending the boycott he had imposed on him after the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Biden wants Riyadh to increase the amount of oil it produces so that it could lower its prices, but will also try to promote normalization with Israel. As such, he will try to have Israeli representatives accompany him on his visit to the kingdom, although the matter is not yet final.

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Everyone involved in the matter says that Israeli-Saudi ties will warm slowly, step by step, over an extended period of time. But my visit to Riyadh shows the profound change Saudi Arabia is experiencing at this time.

It is moving from being a very conservative regime, which characterized the sons of Saudi Arabia’s founding father, Ibn Saud, who passed on the power between them (the youngest of whom, Salman, is king now) to slowly embracing the West under his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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A photo of the two, the king and his son, can be seen all across Riyadh. The kingdom is gearing toward the change of government, which carries a message for Israel as well: going from distant and cautious ties under the previous government to increased cooperation in a variety of areas.

During his visit, Biden will focus on the regional rocket defense program, but other Israeli companies – technological and other – are already operating here, in various ways.

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Quite a few Israelis have visited Saudi Arabia in the last few years, mostly defense officials led by the Mossad. Everything was done in complete secret, usually using private jets. But recently, Saudi Arabia has begun to gradually open its doors to Israelis who hold foreign passports, especially business people.

Although it might take a while before we see groups of Israeli tourists flood the streets of Saudi Arabia, the process is what counts. Soon, Israeli companies will be able to fly east over Saudi Arabia, and perhaps next, launch direct flights to Mecca, for pilgrims.

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While the process of gradual normalization of relations between Riyadh and Jerusalem is moving ahead smoothly, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA and head of Fatah, and Ismail Haniyeh, head of the so-called “political“ wing of mega-terror outfit and Iranian proxy Hamas, were both recently invited to Algeria to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Algerian independence.

The current President of Algeria, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, whose dreams of glory include being a peacemaker for feuding Palestinian factions, wanted to arrange a symbolic handshake between Abbas and Haniyeh. The two have been mortal enemies since 2007, when Hamas seized Gaza from Fatah, murdering 700 Fatah men and driving thousands more out of Gaza to seek refuge in the West Bank. Abbas and Haniyeh haven’t even laid eyes on each other since 2016. Tebboune welcomed both, took their hands in his, and made sure that they shook hands and smiled at one another for the photo op he had arranged.

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This meeting between Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh proves, both sides are now feeling worried seeing the leader of the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia is no more going to continue hostile policy towards Israel. They also know, a number of Arab and non-Arab Muslim nations will follow Saudi example and move ahead in normalizing relations with the Jewish State.

Under these new realities where Saudi Arabia is normalizing relations with Israel, should the policymakers in Bangladesh now abandon their decade-old wrong policies of maintaining distance with Israel? We need to remember, during our war of independence, Israel had extended their moral support and even offered help to our freedom fighters, while Palestinians were making all attempts against Bengali freedom fighters, and even went further by branding the Bangladesh-Pakistan war as “war between Muslims and infidels”. It is time for Bangladesh to say – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH to terror-monger Palestinians and begin the process of normalizing relations with Israel.

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An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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