Trump to unveil Israeli borders map for first time in peace plan rollout

Posted January 27, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Trump to unveil Israeli borders map for first time in peace plan rollout – The Jerusalem Post

Trump is set to unveil the long-delayed plan to Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in separate meetings in the White House on Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement after signing it in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington (photo credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)
U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement after signing it in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington
(photo credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)
US President Donald Trump plans to present a map of Israel’s new borders under his peace plan, a source involved in drafting the plan told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Trump is set to unveil the long-delayed plan to Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in separate meetings in the White House on Monday, and ask them to take immediate action on implementing it. The president hopes that having support from both of the leading candidates in the March 2 election will provide momentum for what he has called “the deal of the century.”

The US president’s message to Netanyahu and Gantz is “you have six weeks to get this going – if you want it,” a US official told Reuters.

It is still uncertain whether Trump will show the map in his joint remarks about the plan with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday or at a later time.

The plan is expected to include the annexation of all Israeli settlements to Israel, along with most of the Jordan Valley in a way that would allow for maximum territory with minimum non-Israel residents, such that the Palestinians would live in their own, demilitarized state.

The “near zero” amount of Palestinians that would be on the annexed land, a source close to Netanyahu said, would be “treated in accordance with the law.”

This likely means that they would be permanent residents, with an optional pathway to citizenship, like residents of east Jerusalem.The source close to Netanyahu speculated that Israel could apply sovereignty over the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement and its surrounding areas first, rather than the Jordan Valley, which has been the object of attention and political wrangling in recent weeks.

Annexing the Jordan Valley could be more complicated because it may threaten stability in Jordan and its peace treaty with Israel. In addition, some 75,000 Palestinians live in the Jordan Valley.

It had long been presumed that Ma’aleh Adumim, the third largest settlement and home to over 38,000 people, would be the first West Bank settlement to be annexed by Israel. It is five kilometers from Jerusalem in the direction of the Jordan Valley, such that it could be a step towards its future annexation.

Annexation of Ma’aleh Adumim, the source said, would include the unbuilt E1 section of the city. Construction in E1 has been frozen for 26 years due to US pressure because Palestinians hold that Israeli building in E1 would make it impossible for them to have a contiguous satiate. However, Israel holds that E1 and Ma’aleh Adumim must be part of its final borders to ensure its own territorial contiguity and a united Jerusalem.

Evangelical Christian leader Dr. Mike Evans, one of Trump’s faith advisors and founder of the Friends of Zion Museum, said that in addition to the widely-reported detail that under the US plan a Palestinian state would have to be demilitarized, it also “does not give the Palestinians any air space [or] the ability to establish treaties.”

Evans, who said he was in close touch with the president and his peace team, also said “the plan does not take away the major Biblical sites” from Israel, a likely reference to allowing Israeli access to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, among others.

For evangelical Christians, the plan “is everything we were hoping for – everything,” Evans said.

Trump and Netanyahu’s Monday bilateral meeting is expected to be lengthy and address other matters such as Iran and Syria, in addition to the peace plan, and will be followed by a shorter meeting between Trump and Gantz focused on the plan.

Reuters, Maayan Hoffman and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

 

Former US envoy Haley defends timing of Trump peace plan rollout 

Posted January 27, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Former US envoy Haley defends timing of Trump peace plan rollout | The Times of Israel

Ex-ambassador to UN, on Israel visit, says Washington could not wait any longer for Israel’s political deadlock to be resolved; hints at possible 2024 presidential run

Former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley during an interview with Israel's Channel 12 news, January 26, 2020. (Channel 12 news screenshot)

Former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley during an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 news, January 26, 2020. (Channel 12 news screenshot)

Former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley defended the imminent unveiling  of the US peace plan and rejected the idea that the Trump administration was trying to help out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his campaign for the upcoming elections.

In an interview broadcast Sunday by Channel 12, Haley, who is visiting Israel, spoke about the long-awaited peace plan and her time in the UN, and hinted she could run for president in 2024.

US President Donald Trump is about to roll out the plan and meet with Netanyahu and his chief rival Blue and White party leader MK Benny Gantz in Washington in the next few days.

The timing of the release of the plan, which according to media reports is unprecedented in its concessions toward Israel, has led many politicians and commentators to say it appears to be an effort by the US leader to boost Netanyahu’s prospects ahead of the March 2 election.

miri barbi@MiriBarbi

ניקי היילי ליונית לוי:תכנית ה-100 זה לא תרגיל בחירות של נתניהו וטראמפ. הם עבדו על זה זמן רב. תמיד ידברו על העיתוי .

הבנתם את זה תקשורת עויינת!

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Asked if publication of the peace plan is intended as a “political life-saver” for Netanyahu, Haley responded: “People are saying the same thing about Trump in the US and I don’t believe either to be true.”

Trump is in the middle of an impeachment trial.

She said the plan was worked on for a long time, with great care, and that there would always be some people would say “it was rolled out too soon or too late.”

“Israel is now going on its third election, it’s not like we could sit there and wait for those [repeated] elections to stop,” she said, referring to the political deadlock that has failed to produce a government in two previous votes.

Haley said she hoped the stalemate in Israel was resolved because she doesn’t want “the region to see Israel as vulnerable.”

Nikki Haley speaks at a UN Security Council Meeting on the Middle East on November 19, 2018 (Courtesy)

Of the peace plan, Haley said she had seen an earlier version and “it is well thought out.”

“It does not compromise national security for Israel, and it improves the quality of life for Palestinians,” she said. “I hope both sides will give it the opportunity it needs.”

Haley said the US had no intention of imposing the plan on either side, but was offering it as a way forward.

Haley, who stepped down in December 2018, won plaudits in Israel and among the pro-Israel community in the US while in office for her staunch backing of the Jewish state at the United Nations.

She admitted to Channel 12 she “didn’t know a lot about Israel” when she came to the UN but said that her goal was, “How do we change the culture?”

“What we can say is the session on Middle East is no longer an Israel-bashing session,” she said. “It now talks about the region.”

Haley, who has Indian parents, explained that her special connection to Israel comes from the similarities between Jewish and Indian culture.

“The more I learned, the more I loved [Israel], and I think it is because I feel kinship with the Jewish people,” she said. “They think very much like the Indian community; the education and family, the way of life is very similar.”

“I appreciate the desire to just want to be treated fairly,” she continued.

Former US ambassador to UN Nikki Haley prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on June 26, 2019. (Oren Ben Hakon/Israel Hayom)

Her decision to leave her position at the UN was motivated by her desire to spend more time with her family, she said.

Haley speculated that she survived the Trump administration, which has seen officials at all levels abruptly leave or be dismissed, by always telling Trump what she really thought.

“I told the president the truth, regardless of the situation,” Haley said, adding that the president “always listened.”

Haley was in Israel to partner with the Israel Center on Addiction, a cause she strongly supports.

Quizzed on her view of Trump’s ongoing impeachment trial, she made it clear she believes the president is innocent. Trump is suspected of withholding military aide from Ukraine to pressure that country into investigating a Democrat presidential candidate, and then obstructing a congressional investigation into his actions.

Asked if she thought that Trump had done anything wrong, Haley did not hesitate in responding “no.”

Haley emphatically denied rumors that she was planning on replacing Mike Pence as Trump’s choice for vice president in the 2020 elections, but was cautiously open to the idea of running for president herself in 2024.

“It’s just too soon,” she said. “It’s easy for people to talk about it. It’s hard to do, it’s hard to run for president of the United States.”

“If it’s meant to be, it will,” she said.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, at Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem on June 7, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Among the major American initiatives and moves at the UN during her tenure were the decision to pull out of the Human Rights Council, ending funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, and defending US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz are scheduled to meet with Trump, separately and privately, in the White House on Monday. Netanyahu and Trump are set for a higher-profile meeting Tuesday.

The plan, which Trump said he would release before his second meeting with Netanyahu on Tuesday, is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.

 

Netanyahu en route to Trump meeting: ‘Together we’ll make history’

Posted January 27, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Netanyahu en route to Trump meeting: ‘Together we’ll make history’ | The Times of Israel

Taking off for Washington, PM contrasts the Iran nuclear deal championed by Barack Obama with the Deal of the Century to be released by ‘huge friend’ of Israel, Donald Trump

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at Ben Gurion Airport before boarding a flight to Washington, Janaury 26, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at Ben Gurion Airport before boarding a flight to Washington, Janaury 26, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday vowed to “make history” as he headed to Washington for two meetings with US President Donald Trump during which the White House is expected to unveil its much-anticipated plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“Over the last three years, I spoke countless times with President Trump — a huge friend of Israel — and his team about these vital security needs, about our security, about our justice,” Netanyahu declared. “I will meet with President Trump tomorrow, and on Tuesday, together with him, we will make history.”

As he boarded his Boeing 777 en route to to the American capital, Netanyahu contrasted his antagonistic stance toward the last US president, Barack Obama, with his strong alliance with the current inhabitant of the Oval Office.

“Five years ago, I went to Washington, to Congress, because I was forced to oppose a plan proposed by the American president, because I believed that this plan endangered Israel’s most vital security needs and indeed its very existence,” he said referring to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Obama championed.

US President Barack Obama, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)

At the time, Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting of US Congress to advocate against the deal.

“Today, I am going to Washington to stand next to an American president who is proposing a deal that, I believe, advances Israel’s most vital security,” Netanyahu said, referring to Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century.

The deal, which is expected to be released on Tuesday, has been deemed the most pro-Israel outline for Middle East peace ever presented by a US administration.

Also on Sunday, his main political rival, Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz, took off for Washington for a separate meeting with the US president.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz are scheduled to meet with Trump, separately and privately, in the White House on Monday. Netanyahu and Trump are set for a higher-profile meeting Tuesday.

US President Donald Trump, left, welcomes visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Gantz on Saturday surprisingly announced that Trump had invited him to meet “in person, as the leader of the largest party in Israel.” Previously, it had appeared that Israel’s de facto opposition leader was invited to join Netanyahu’s meeting Trump.

The fact that the novice politician managed to get a separate meeting is seen as unprecedented and as major diplomatic accomplishment.

Asked at Ben Gurion Airport whether he will endorse the plan or ask Trump to push off its release until after elections, Gantz demurred.

“I’ll hear from him about the plan and exchange views, but what is done behind closed doors will stay behind closed doors,” he told the Kan public broadcaster.

The meeting, set to be Gantz’s first with the US president, will be closed to the press, Blue and White said on Saturday.

The plan, which Trump said he would release before his meeting Tuesday, is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.

According to Channel 12, the peace plan is the most generous US proposal ever for Israel, likely providing for Israeli sovereignty over all West Bank settlements and sovereignty throughout Jerusalem. The TV report, which was unsourced, said the plan also offers potential eventual recognition of Palestinian statehood, provided the Palestinians demilitarize Gaza and accept Israel as a Jewish state — conditions the Palestinians would presumably reject.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz holds a press conference in Ramat Gan on January 25, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

At the weekly cabinet meeting earlier on Sunday, the prime minister said that Israel is in the middle of “very dramatic diplomatic events,” stressing that “the peak is yet before us.”

“I think that such an opportunity occurs once in history and we cannot miss it. For three years, I have spoken with President Trump and his staff about our security and national needs — many dozens of conversations, hundreds of hours. In all these talks, I have found an attentive ear in the White House to the State of Israel’s vital needs.”

“I am leaving for Washington with a sense of great mission, great responsibility and great opportunity, and I am full of hope that we will be able to make history.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

 

Trump to tell Israelis they have 6 weeks to get peace plan moving — report

Posted January 27, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Trump to tell Israelis they have 6 weeks to get peace plan moving — report | The Times of Israel

US official tells Reuters that proposal won’t be released ahead of US president’s meetings with Gantz and Netanyahu to ensure he has their support before details announced

US President Donald Trump pauses as he arrives at Miami International Airport en route to attend the Republican National Committee winter meetings, Thursday, January 23, 2020, in Miami. (AP/ Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump pauses as he arrives at Miami International Airport en route to attend the Republican National Committee winter meetings, Thursday, January 23, 2020, in Miami. (AP/ Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump will reportedly tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chief Benny Gantz that they have until the Knesset elections to work on the administration’s long-awaited peace plan, potentially throwing the high stakes diplomatic gambit into Israel’s domestic political stew.

According to a report by the Reuters news agency, citing a US official, Trump will not announce details of the plan until after he receives buy-in from both Netanyahu and Gantz so that it does not lose any momentum.

According to the unnamed official, Trump will tell the two, “You have six weeks to get this [plan] going, if you want it.”

It is unclear what either side could accomplish in even jump-starting talks based on the deal with neither having the confidence of the nation until the March 2 election. However, a number of politicians have expressed fears that releasing the plan before the vote will turn it into a political football as electoral campaigns ramp up.

The last year has seen Netanyahu and Gantz facing off in successive elections for almost a year, with neither side able to form a majority government.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz are scheduled to meet with Trump, separately and privately, in the White House on Monday.

Netanyahu will meet with Trump at 11 a.m. (6 p.m. in Israel) for two meetings, including one without aides, and then Gantz will arrive at the White House at 12:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m.) for a 45-minute discussion.

Netanyahu and Trump are set for a higher-profile meeting Tuesday, which will include a joint statement.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz (C) speaks to reporters during a visit to the Jordan Valley on January 21, 2020. (Elad Malka/Blue and White)

The US source, who is familiar with the administration’s deliberations on the matter, told Reuters that by meeting with both Gantz and Netanyahu, it was hoped that Trump’s announcement of the proposal would not be seen as a political move.

“The rationale…is it depoliticizes this to the point that, no matter what happens on March 2, the two leaders of the two largest parties can potentially be supportive,” the source said.

The timing of the announcement has been criticized in Israel as an attempt to rescue Netanyahu from immunity proceedings. Many politicians and commentators also say it appears to be an effort by the US leader to boost Netanyahu’s prospects ahead of the March 2 election.

At the same time, Trump himself is in the middle of an impeachment trial.

On Sunday, former US envoy Nikki Haley said the administration had grown tired of waiting for Israel to move beyond its political deadlock.

Trump is expected to deliver remarks after his Tuesday meeting with Netanyahu, where he may reveal some details of the plan.

The plan, which Trump earlier said he would release before the Tuesday meeting, is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.

Trump said his administration has talked briefly to the Palestinians, who reject the administration’s peace plan altogether. The Palestinian leadership has long called for the establishment of a Palestinian state along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and a “just” solution to the refugee issue.

A Palestinian man rides a donkey on a main road in the Jordan Valley, near Tubus, in the West Bank, September 11, 2019. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

According to various Hebrew-language media reports, the peace plan is the most generous US proposal ever for Israel, likely allowing Israel to annex all West Bank settlements and backing sovereignty throughout Jerusalem.

According to the reports, the plan also offers potential eventual recognition of Palestinian statehood, provided the Palestinians demilitarize Gaza and accept Israel as a Jewish state — conditions the Palestinians would presumably reject.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Sunday noted his opposition to any elements of the plan which were at the expense of Jordan. Jordan, along with Egypt, is one of only two Arab nations to have a peace treaty with Israel. But relations between the neighbors have become increasingly tense, particularly with Netanyahu repeatedly vowing to annex the Jordan Valley.

Netanyahu on Sunday vowed to “make history” as he headed to Washington.

“Over the last three years, I spoke countless times with President Trump — a huge friend of Israel — and his team about these vital security needs, about our security, about our justice,” Netanyahu declared. “I will meet with President Trump tomorrow, and on Tuesday, together with him we will make history.”

US President Donald Trump, right, and visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk along the Colonnade of the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Netanyahu’s main political rival, Gantz, also took off for Washington on Sunday for a separate meeting with the US president.

Gantz on Saturday announced that Trump had invited him to meet “in person, as the leader of the largest party in Israel.” It was previously believed that Israel’s de facto opposition leader was invited to join Netanyahu’s meeting with Trump.

Asked at Ben Gurion Airport whether he will endorse the plan or ask Trump to push off its release until after the March 2 elections, Gantz demurred.

“I’ll hear from him about the plan and exchange views, but what is done behind closed doors will stay behind closed doors,” he told the Kan public broadcaster.

The meeting, set to be Gantz’s first with the US president, will be closed to the press, Blue and White said on Saturday.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the pro-annexation Yamina party, on Sunday said his party would support the plan if it allows Israel to annex large swaths of the West Bank “immediately.”

In a speech in the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel, Bennett called the plan a potential “once-in-50-years opportunity to apply Israeli law to half a million Israelis next week,” a reference to Israelis living in the major settlements of the West Bank.

 

Washington on tenterhooks for “dramatic event” re Arabs and Israel during Netanyahu visit – DEBKAfile

Posted January 27, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Washington on tenterhooks for “dramatic event” re Arabs and Israel during Netanyahu visit – DEBKAfile

The “dramatic event” kept under close wraps appears to be some breakthrough in Israel-Arab ties that will be revealed during PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House this week. Even the closest aides of President Donald Trump and Netanyahu are not in on the secret., although the Israeli leader said before he flew out, “Very dramatic things are happening.”

DEBKAfile’s sources quoted White House sources as commenting on Sunday, Jan. 26, that they don’t remember a blackout as dense as this one. Monday, Israel’s Blue-White party leader Benny Ganz and the prime minister arrive in Washington for briefings by the president on his “Deal of the Century” – a blueprint for an Israel-Palestinian peace accord.

Those sources attribute the deep hush to two considerations:

  1. Premature disclosure could torpedo the mysterious move.
  2. The Arab rulers involved in the move may back off at the last minute.

Two unusual occurrences indicate that something out of the ordinary is afoot. By Sunday night, after detailed leaks from the Trump peace plan appeared in the media, not a single Arab ruler issued a comment, even to silence the critics.

During the day, Interior Minister Arye Deri signed a directive permitting Israeli citizens to travel to Saudi Arabia for the first time. The directive referred to businessmen and investors. Until now, only Israeli Muslims traveled to the kingdom legally for the hajj to Mecca. The Israeli minister would not have signed this directive without the assurance of Saudi approval.

Furthermore, Netanyahu was fully supportive of President Trump’s decision to invite his political rival Gantz for a separate meeting at the White House on Monday. This scenario may also include the president asking Gantz to delay his return home and stay on to take part in the “historic event” as it unfolds. The opposition leader could hardly refuse this invitation, although it would keep him from attending the Knesset debate on Tuesday, which was called on his initiative to deny Netanyahu parliamentary immunity for prosecution on the bribery cases against him.

 

Iran may be pushing Islamic Jihad to challenge ‘Deal of Century’ 

Posted January 26, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: Iran may be pushing Islamic Jihad to challenge ‘Deal of Century’ – The Jerusalem Post

On the face of it, Iran’s media has reported the “deal” in a relatively neutral manner, but Tasnim news media’s report may indicate Iran’s real intentions.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants take part in the funeral of their comrade in the southern Gaza Strip November 14, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants take part in the funeral of their comrade in the southern Gaza Strip November 14, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
Iran is concerned about US President Donald Trump’s push for his “Deal of the Century” and his invitations to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz. Iranian regime media has reported on the potential “deal” and Palestinian attempts to prevent it.

On the face of it, Iran’s media has reported the “deal” in a relatively neutral manner. Mehr News notes that Netanyahu says this deal is a historic opportunity and that Trump has asserted that it will benefit Palestinians.

Iran’s IRNA news agency says that Jordan is maneuvering to accept the deal as well, portraying the Jordanian government as abandoning the wishes of Palestinians and its own people. However, the report notes that local media see the deal as a disgraceful plan that involves the annexation of Jerusalem and settlements “to the Zionist regime” and the complete “destruction of the right of return of refugees.”

Evidence for Iran’s real intentions comes from Tasnim news media, which reports in detail on Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s plans to disrupt the process. The report notes that PIJ, which fought a brief conflict with Israel in November, has called for an uprising, or intifada.

“The Palestinian people will never allow anyone to take Jerusalem from us,” a PIJ statement said. The terrorist group’s political bureau, which is in regular contact with Iranian officials, says that it will work to reject the plan and commit measures to stop it. It says Palestinians should no longer trust the West.

PIJ has been in contact with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other officials over the last months, including attending the funeral for IRGC General Qasem Soleimani.

 

First Israelis are permitted limited visits to Saudi Arabia

Posted January 26, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Source: First Israelis are permitted limited visits to Saudi Arabia – The Jerusalem Post

Ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia have been warming up in recent months.

Cars drive past the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 18, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS/FAISAL AL NASSER)
Cars drive past the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 18, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS/FAISAL AL NASSER)
Interior Minister Arye Deri on Sunday authorized a select number of Israelis to be the first with permission to visit Saudi Arabia, under certain conditions that include Israeli entrepreneurs seeking investments, in a sign of warming ties.

After consulting the country’s security establishment, Deri issued a statement saying that Israelis would be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia under two circumstances: for religious reasons on pilgrimage for the haj, or for up to nine days for business reasons such as investment or meetings.

Travelers would still need permission from the Saudi authorities to gain entry to the country besides their initial permission from the State of Israel.

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 some Gulf states as well.

Ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia have been warming up recently, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanking a Saudi political leader for visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp on the day of the World Holocaust Forum.

Netanyahu has been looking to capitalize on common interests like Iran, while also marketing Israeli technologies to try and further normalize relations.

Israelis – mostly Muslims going on pilgrimage – have been traveling to Saudi Arabia for years, but usually with special permission or using foreign passports.

Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The kingdom launched a new tourism visa last year for visitors from 49 countries, as part of its bid to diversify the economy and open up society. Israel is not among the eligible countries.

However, 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, even though Israel’s national carrier El Al may not use Saudi airspace for eastward flights.