An Arab affairs analyst says an ongoing tour of Arab countries by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS, is meant to normalize relations with Israel.
Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm news and opinion website, said US President Donald Trump’s latest remarks suggest that through the trip, Riyadh is actually seeking to promote normal ties between Arab states and Tel Aviv.
Israel has full diplomatic relations with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, but recent reports suggest the regime is working behind the scenes to establish formal contact with Saudi Arabia and its allies.
Critics say Saudi Arabia’s flirtation with Israel would undermine global efforts to isolate Tel Aviv and harm the Palestinian cause. They say Riyadh has gone too far in its cooperation with Tel Aviv as a way of confronting Tehran.
However, the Saudi push has been overshadowed by last month’s brutal killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
In a statement released on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump said Washington intends to remain “a steadfast partner” of Riyadh to ensure the interests of the United States, Israel and the regional allies.
His announcement came after a CIA assessment, leaked by The Washington Post, concluded that the heir to the Saudi throne had ordered Khashoggi’s murder.
On Thursday, Trump stressed that the stability of Saudi Arabia benefits Tel Aviv, saying “Israel would be in big trouble without Saudi Arabia.”
Anger mounts amid bin Salman trip
The UAE was bin Salman’s first stop on his regional tour that would also take him to Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia. He is also expected to travel to Argentina to attend the G20 summit at the end of this month.
Tunisian activists have been calling for protests over Khashoggi’s death when bin Salman visits the North African country.
A group of 50 lawyers has also been tasked by journalists, bloggers and human right activists to lodge a complaint in Tunisian courts against the trip.
In a letter to President Beji Caid Essebsi, the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists said bin Salman’s visit is meant “to clean up his bloody reputation” for war crimes in Yemen and Khashoggi’s murder. It further warned that the Saudi crown prince endangers the world security and stability.
Activists have called for protests in front of the presidential palace in Carthage on Tuesday, the day of the crown prince’s arrival, and are trying to mount a legal challenge to stop the visit.
“The blood of Khashoggi has not dried yet, the murderer bin Salman is not welcome in Tunisia, the country of democratic transition,” Neji Bghouri, the president of the journalists’ syndicate, said.
Additionally, al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper quoted Abderrazak Makri, leader of the Movement for the Society of Peace, an Algerian Islamic party, as saying that bin Salman’s trip is aimed at covering up his crimes.
Meanwhile, a well-known Saudi online activist, who goes by the nickname of @mujtahidd on Twitter, reported that security had been beefed up around the Saudi royal palace after bin Salman began his regional tour.
He added that 20 military jeeps equipped with night vision instruments have been stationed around the palace.