Saudi Arabia and Israel are in talks to establish economic ties, a dramatic move that would put the Jewish state on a path to normal relations with the bastion of Sunni Islam and guardian of the two sacred Muslim cities, reported The Times.
Arab and American sources said that the links would start small: allowing Israeli businesses to operate in the Gulf, for example, and letting El Al, the national airline, fly over Saudi airspace, according to the British daily.
The possibility of closer ties with Israel would partly explain why Saudi Arabia and its allies have imposed a sweeping blockade on Qatar, in an effort to force the Gulf state to drop its support for Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian militants who control Gaza.
Sources close to Saudi Arabia, however, dismissed the idea of improved relations as wishful thinking on behalf of a White House keen to demonstrate immediate results from President Trump’s recent visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel. Mr Trump has boasted that his administration can produce a settlement in the Middle East that has eluded all of his predecessors.
Economic ties would not be altogether unprecedented — Israel had a trade office in Doha until early 2009, when the Qataris closed it at the height of the Gaza war — but such a shift would be the most public alliance between Israel and the Gulf in nearly a decade.