Small gestures have hinted at the development of a closer affinity between Saudi Arabia and Israel, but an academic article on the Prophet Muhammad confirms it further.
As Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Israel warms up, its people-to-people ties are supplementing its diplomatic gestures. Now, for the first time in history a Saudi academic has published a paper in an Israeli journal, with the aim to 'bring the two nations closer'.
Professor Mohammed Ibrahim Alghbban from King Saud University in Riyadh, published a Hebrew article in Kesher, the journal of the Shalom Rosenfeld Institute for Research of Jewish Media and Communication, at Tel Aviv University.
Professor Raanan Rein, head of the Shalom Rosenfeld Institute, said the move was unprecedented and was driven by Alghbban’s aim to improve relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The Jerusalem post writes, "The Saudi professor said he wrote the article to improve Muhammad’s image among Israelis."
“I hope that this academic cooperation is another step towards economic and political cooperation,” Rein added.
Alghbban’s article, “Contribution to Prophet Muhammad’s Image Improvement in the Eyes of the Israeli Public: Muhammad’s Alliances and Mail Exchanges with Jews from the Arabian Peninsula,” argued that the prophet had good relations with the Jewish people, and his clashes with them were political, not religious.
Islam, Judaism and Christianity have historically co-existed in synergy with each other and according to Rabbi Ben Abrahmson of the Al Sadiqin Institute, there is a clear process that can lead the way to reclaiming that historic synergy.
The normalising of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel show no signs of a deeper process of mediation which requires forming credible bodies of mediation that all parties (including Palestinians) can trust and establishing a just judicial system and clear definition of citizenship.
Palestinians have so far not been a factor in the warming of ties between the two countries.
The Saudi academic’s paper comes after an increasing volume of calls in Saudi Arabia, along with those from other Gulf countries, to improve relations with Israel. Despite the fact that the Gulf States and Israel have no official diplomatic ties, the relationship between them has grown closer recently, mostly over their common enemy: Iran.
Another indication of the warming association, is the cooperation between Israeli and Emirati companies in the fight against coronavirus.
In June, reports emerged that Israel and Saudi Arabia met secretly last December regarding various issues, including Saudi representatives in the Islamic Waqf Council at the Al Aqsa Compound in Jerusalem.
The Islamic Waqf Council is a Jordanian-appointed body, which oversees Muslim sites in Jerusalem and claims exclusive authority over the Al Aqsa Compound - not subject to Israeli jurisdiction.
The talks took place following US President Donald Trump’s controversial Israel-Palestine plan, the so-called “deal of the century”.
Talking to Israel Hayom, senior Saudi diplomats said; “These are sensitive and secret discussions conducted with ambiguity and low intensity with a small team of diplomats and senior security officials from Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia as part of negotiations to progress the Deal of the Century.”
Although Saudi Arabia opposed the formation of Israel in 1947, and voted against the UN Partition Plan, in the last few years, the country has sought to achieve better relations with Israel.
In the spring of 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) said, "There are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the GCC."
February 2019 saw the leaking of a video by Netanyahu’s office during the Warsaw Mideast Summit. It was of a closed session in which the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates can be seen defending Israel's right to exist and defend itself, and in one case saying that confronting Iran is more pressing than solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, praised the summit organised by Trump, defining it as a "historical turning point" in the region's history regarding the evolving nature of the Israeli-Gulf relationship.