A key element of Saudi Arabia’s highly anticipated $500 billion plan to establish a business and industrial zone extending into Egypt and Jordan needs Israeli approval, according to a report.
The proposal, which is the largest project so far to be announced as part of the country’s economic transformation, includes the construction of a bridge over the Red Sea Straits of Titan, which is currently under the control of Israel, in line with the North African country’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
US financial media outlet Bloomberg quoted Yoram Meital, chairman of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies & Diplomacy at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, as saying that because of the bridge’s location, “Israel’s involvement in the project is crucial”.
“There couldn’t be anything close to this unless Israel and the Saudis had the opportunity to discuss in detail their relations and this bridge,” Meital said. “There have to have been back channels.”
With Israel being vital for the ambitious ‘NEOM’ project of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman might make way for speculation that Riyadh is getting closer to Tel Aviv. However, Saudi Arabia denied reports that its officials had conduct a secret diplomatic trip to Israel.
The statement came after Israeli media reported that an inidentified Saudi Prince had visited Israel to discuss peace.
Crown Prince Mohammad, who is seen as the architect of Saudi Arabia’s recent major foreign policy decisions, has pursued a diplomatic strategy that has alienated some of Saudi Arabia’s former allies.