Israel’s Consul in Dubai Ilan Sztulman told Globes on Tuesday (כך מתכננת ישראל להגיע ליחסים עם מדינות נוספות במפרץ, ביניהן סעודיה) that there has been a recent acceleration in the contacts between the Jewish State and several Arab countries who may join the Abrahamic agreements, hinting that the big catch in this fisherman’s net is Saudi Arabia. Globes reported that there are ongoing, quiet behind-the-scenes contacts, but that they would not necessarily lead to full diplomatic relations as with the Emirates and Bahrain.
All of this shiny goodness comes with a price, which a Wednesday Globes report (לחץ על ישראל: מחווה מדינית לפלסטינים בתמורה לנרמול היחסים עם סעודיה) called “gestures to the Palestinians,” which is another way to say opening the American consulate for PA residents on Agron Street, at the heart of western Jerusalem. Globes suggested that just as the cost of the initial Abrahamic Accords was a settlement construction freeze and abandoning the promise of partial sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, so would the cost of Saudi diplomatic sugar be allowing the folks from Ramallah to establish a permanent presence in the Israeli capital.
Those other Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, have a problem establishing full relations. As I noted on Wednesday (Report: US Urging Saudis to Normalize Relations with Israel, Join Abrahamic Agreements), when, in 2017, the Trump administration made great efforts to persuade Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman showed openness to the idea but his father King Salman insisted on maintaining the traditional Saudi policy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and not exceeding the conditions for recognition of Israel set in the Arab Peace Initiative – those conditions being the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.
According to Globes, the solution for the above dichotomy would be lower-level relations, such as a Saudi economic mission, complete with economic agreements in specific areas. In this context, it appears that Israel’s friends on the shores of the Persian Gulf have really bought the story about the Zionist economic miracle: The United Arab Emirates economy minister said recently that his country aims to raise the value of economic activity with Israel to more than $1 trillion in the next 10 years, hoping to work together on everything from healthcare to climate change and energy.
Speaking of Saudi sugar: the Saudis have already agreed to allow Israeli planes to fly over their territory from Israel to India and back. The timing of the implementation of this permit is still unclear, but a source involved in the details told Globes that the Biden administration is putting pressure on “the countries in question.”
Of course, with El Al dumping much of its fleet and looking to let a lot of waiters in the sky start waiting tables on Dizengoff Street, it’s not clear who exactly would remain alive long enough to take advantage of those open Saudi skies. But even without a national carrier, that one trillion dollar promise is still very appetizing, and to some Israeli tycoons may be worth the loss of an Itsy Bitsy part of our majestic, holy, eternal city.
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand pick up a trillion bucks (in promissory notes).
Ilan Sztulman, 64, Israel’s Consul General in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, is a human dynamo. Born in São Paulo, he served as Israel’s Consul General there, then moved up to serving as Israel’s Ambassador to Argentina from 2016 until 2019. Sztulman is credited with much of Israel’s stunning success in such a short time in the Gulf States, not the least of it is the Israeli Pavilion in the Dubai Expo. A business source involved in Israel’s economic ties with Saudi Arabia told Globes that the agreements with the Emirates and especially with Bahrain have led in recent months to several deals on a small scale with Saudi Arabia – the transactions are made through Bahrain and the Emirates. You can bet your bottom trillion dollars that Sztulman was involved.
Sztulman’s boss, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, is at the intersection of grandiose Israeli dreams about Saudi Arabia and persistent White House ambitions about cutting off half of Jerusalem and giving it to a future Palestinian State. Should any kind of quid pro quo involving the Saudis and the “Palestinian consulate” be established – Lapid will surely be there to facilitate and collect. If not this year then in a year and a half, when he is scheduled to take over as Prime Minister.
I reported on Wednesday (Bennett ‘Surprised’ by US Pressure on Settlements; Biden to Reopen Jerusalem’s ‘Palestinian’ Consulate) that the Biden administration had decided to reopen the US consulate in eastern Jerusalem despite pressure from the Israeli government and congressional lawmakers. The consulate is expected to reopen “shortly” after the passing of the state budget by the Knesset in November, meaning that the consulate would open in early December. But even if the Americans give in for now and opt to avoid a major fight that would surely involve pro-Israel members of Congress, the die has been cast.