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Saudi Royal Family divided over relations with Israel: WSJ

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Saudi Arabia's monarch, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, has been at odds with his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, over establishing relations with Israel, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

The king is a longtime supporter of the Arab boycott of Israel and the Palestinians' demand for an independent state. The prince wants to move past what he sees as an intractable conflict to join with Israel in business and align against Iran, according to WSJ.

When President Trump announced on Aug. 13 that Israel and the U.A.E. were normalizing diplomatic ties, the deal stunned the 84-year-old king, who had just begun his summer holiday, according to people familiar with the matter, including Saudi advisers. His son wasn't so surprised, the paper claimed.

A furious King Salman later ordered his foreign minister to restate the kingdom's commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state, without mentioning the normalization deal.

Normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel before any deal for Palestinian statehood would be a seismic shift in the Middle East, upending a decades-old pan-Arab position, the WSJ said adding: "Tensions atop the Saudi ruling family suggest the kingdom's position on the tumultuous region's central conflict could change sooner than expected, but that such a shift would entail more turbulence."

Saudi Arabia and Israel have maintained discreet but frequent informal contacts on security issues, mostly related to Iran, for around 30 years, according to the Journal.

Since assuming day-to-day responsibility of the Saudi government in 2017, the 35-year-old prince has expressed unusual openness toward Israel and accelerated engagements on security and commerce, the WSJ added.

It won't be easy for Saudi Arabia to erase one major obstacle to ties with Israel. Generations of Saudis have been conditioned to hate Jews. School textbooks called them swines and apes; mosque preachers have prayed for victory over the "invader and aggressor" Jews; and the news media has referred to Israel as "the Zionist enemy," the WSJ concluded.

Trump says Kuwait may soon normalize ties with Israel

US President Donald Trump said Friday, after meeting with the son of Kuwait's ruling emir, that the country will likely normalize relations with Israel in the near future, following the diplomatic move made by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday, the Times of Israel reported Saturday.

The Kuwaitis "are so excited that we signed the first two countries and I think they'll end up fairly quickly being a part of it," Trump said at a White House press briefing after he bestowed a top honor on Kuwait's Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, which his eldest son accepted on his behalf.

Trump reiterated his claim that a number of Arab states were eager to ink deals with Israel following the historic accords with the UAE and Bahrain.

"I have, I would say, seven or eight countries that want to be a part of it," Trump was quoted by the Israeli paper as saying. "Nobody thought this would happen and not only is it happening, it's happening rather easily."

"I had two calls this morning with countries that want to know, 'When can we go into the deal?' It's not that we're giving them anything. They want security, they want peace, and they're really tired of fighting," Trump said.

Last month, unnamed senior Kuwaiti officials rejected the possibility of normalizing ties with Israel, telling the local al-Qabas newspaper that despite warming ties between the Gulf states and Jerusalem, it had no interest in changing its longstanding regional policies.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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