The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman leaves 10 Downing Street in London, March 7, 2018.
(photo credit: SIMON DAWSON/ REUTERS)
Warming relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia could see setbacks because of the October murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
“Things have definitely cooled off right after Khashoggi’s murder,” a senior Saudi government official told the Journal. “The last thing the kingdom wants is for this to come out now and cause another backlash.”
Aside from Saudi Arabia's concern for refurbishing its image in the region and the world, the two Saudi aides that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman fired for playing a role in the murder had been part of the clandestine Saudi outreach towards Israel, according to the report.
Saudia Arabia and Israel have no official diplomatic channels, a continuation of the long-standing Arab and Islamic policy against "normalization" with Israel until the Palestinian issue is resolved.
One of the aides, former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani, was working on softening Israel's image in the Saudi press. He also was involved in purchasing advanced surveillance technology from Israeli firms, the report said.
“Qahtani was the key player in all of this,” one Saudi official told the Journal
. “He wanted the best and he knew that Israeli firms offered the best.”
The other aide, former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri, made secret visits to Israel on a number of occasions to learn more about Israeli surveillance technology that could benefit Saudi Arabia.
Sources told the Journal
that Saudi Arabia was considering investing $100 million USD in Israeli firms, but since the Khashoggi killing, the deal has been shelved.
Saudi Arabia was also giving Israeli businessmen a special waiver to enter the country. Until March 2018, there were no tourists visas for non-Muslims. NSO Group,
an Israeli spyware company, along with Q Cyber Technology, signed a $55 million USD deal in 2017 with Saudi Arabia.
Both Qahtani and al-Assiri could not be reached for comment by the Journal
.Khashoggi was assassinated by Saudi agents
in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey when he went to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.