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Netanyahu ally rewards Saudi Grand Mufti with invitation to Israel after slamming Hamas Open in fullscreen

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Netanyahu ally rewards Saudi Grand Mufti with invitation to Israel after slamming Hamas

The Saudi Grand Mufti has slammed Hamas as a 'terrorist' organisation [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 August, 2019

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Former Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, who made the comments on Twitter, said “I invite the mufti to visit Israel; he will be welcomed with a high level of respect.”
This is a story originally from November 2017. Find the original story here.
In November 2017, Israel praised the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia for labelling the Palestinian Hamas movement as a "terrorist organisation", in what was seen as the start of increasing normalisation between the country and Gulf nations.

Former Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, who made the comments on Twitter, said "I invite the mufti to visit Israel; he will be welcomed with a high level of respect."

"We congratulate Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, as well as the head of Ulema (Islamic scholars) for his fatwa forbidding the fight against the Jews and forbidding to kill them," he added.

The comments came after a month earlier the Saudi religious leader described the fight against Israel as inappropriate, going as far as labelling the elected governing authority in Gaza - Hamas - a terrorist organisation.

In the years since, there has been increasing normalisation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, among other Gulf nations, who have reportedly conducted a swathe of backdoor talks despite lacking formal ties.

For the kingdom and its allies in the Gulf, Israel's shared enmity with Iran may trump the powerful and popular anger over an Arab state normalising ties with Israel.

Formalising such an alliance, however, could be hard to achieve. 

Last week, reports said Saudi Arabia has been in conversations with Israel to buy natural gas, according to Kara, an ally of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The discussions mark the latest sign of warming relations between the two nations, which do no share diplomatic ties.

Saudi Arabia and Israel have discussed building a gas pipeline to link the kingdom to the Israeli Red Sea port city of Eilat, former Netanyahu cabinet member Kara told Bloomberg citing senior officials in the region.

The discussions also include linking Saudi Arabia to the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline in Israel, allowing the kingdom to export its oil to Europe and other markets while avoiding the Strait of Hormuz, where Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of carrying out attacks on oil tankers.

Such a project could result in a substantial political blowback across the region.

A controversial but lucrative natural gas deal between Jordan and Israel - which have had diplomatic relations since the 90s - was subject to years of mass protest, with critics claiming the kingdom buying the "enemy's gas" amounted to "occupation".

While dissent is infamously hard to vocalise in Saudi Arabia, normalisation with Israel could prove incredibly unpopular.

Resistance against the idea led more than 2,000 citizens from various Gulf countries to sign a petition "to stop all forms of normalisation with the Zionist entity".

Kara, a former minister of communications and advisor to Netanyahu on Israel's relations with Arab countries, was one of the few Israeli officials to appear publicly in a Gulf state in the past year.

Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations now only pay the Palestinian cause "lip service", he said, adding that the desire to counter Iran was leading much of the Gulf to pursue economic and military ties with Israel.

"All they care about is the security and future of their countries," the former minister said.

He added: "This is about mutual interest."

The project may seem far-fetched to some, but Saudi Arabia's Aramco plans to invest $160 billion in natural gas developments over the next 10 years. With more than 80 percent of Israel's largest reservoir open to buyers, the kingdom may find a solution for its energy needs.

Representatives of the Israeli and Saudi energy ministries did not respond to requests for comment by Bloomberg.

Israel will begin exporting natural gas to Egypt in November, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said last week.

The deliveries will mark the start of a $15 billion export agreement between Israel's Delek Drilling and an Egyptian counterpart.

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