Interfaith harmony, economic integration precedes political solutions?
DESPARDES — In a first, Israel on Sunday officially gave its citizens the right to travel to Saudi Arabia for religious and business visits.
The move, coordinated with the security and diplomatic services, approves travel to the Kingdom “for religious purposes during the Hajj and the Umra (Muslim pilgrimages),” the interior ministry said in a statement.
It said Israel would also allow its citizens to travel to Saudi Arabia “to participate in business meetings or seek investments” for trips not exceeding 90 days.
Business travelers from Israel must have “arranged their entry to Saudi Arabia and received an invitation from a governmental source”.
The statement comes after President Donald Trump invited Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, to Washington, DC.
The Israeli leaders are set to hear details of the White House’s Middle East peace plan ahead of an Israeli election in March, the third in less than a year.
The political aspects of the initiative have been closely guarded. Only the economic proposals, including a $50bn investment plan put forward by Trump adviser Jared Kushner, have been unveiled.
Palestinian leaders have warned no deal can work without them on board.
On Monday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told a US network that Israelis are not welcome at the moment in Saudi Arabia.
“Our policy is constant. We don’t have relations with Israel and holders of Israeli passports cannot visit the kingdom for now,” he said, according to CNN’s Arabic website.
“When a peace treaty between the Palestinians and Israel is reached, the question of Israel’s integration in the region will be on the table I believe.”
“We strongly encourage the reaching of a solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, said bin Farhan.
His comments came as President Trump said in Washington his “Deal of the Century” plan for the Palestinians and Israelis has a “chance” and will be unveiled on Tuesday.
Like most Arab countries, Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and Israel had never granted official approval for such travel by both Jewish and Muslim Israelis.
Earlier Sunday, Israeli PM Netanyahu praised Mohammed al-Issa, the head of Muslim World League based in Mecca, for attending commemorations in Poland this week marking 75 years since the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.
It was “the most senior Islamic leadership delegation” to visit the site of a Nazi death camp, said American Jewish Committee. A delegation of 62 Muslims, including 25 prominent religious leaders, from some 28 countries including head of Mecca-headquartered MWL, Mohammed al-Issa, made the “groundbreaking” visit.
“This must never happen again”, Saudi cleric said…”the visit shows interfaith efforts working, participants said”.