There appears to be good news to begin our New Year. Relations between the Monarchy of Saudi Arabia and the State of Israel are warming up and are increasing. This week, for example, the Saudi government has lifted the ban on Saudis gaining access to Israeli newspapers, both in English and in Hebrew. This is something that had never been done before. It is a very welcome surprise.

Saudi officials have been visiting in Israel to explore possible economic and commercial ventures. The Saudis need Israeli gas and methods of developing water systems for which Israel is world famous.

Over the past few years, Saudi Arabia has been less hostile to Israel and even proposed and sponsored an Arab Peace Plan. Although the proposed plan has some very good points, the demand that we retreat to the 1967 borders is one of several proposals which Israel cannot and will not accept.

A peace agreement between us and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would benefit both nations. Saudis are highly educated and western oriented. Changes and reforms are being made to comply with requests from the UN and from civil rights organizations.

Peace and trade relations with Saudi Arabia would be beneficial also with Egypt and Jordan. More and more Saudi Arabia is frustrated with the absence of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. For our good fortune, they place most of the blame on Palestinian stubbornness.

We cannot expect ever Israeli tourism to Mecca or Medina but it is highly probable that we can expect Saudi tourism to Israel. Saudi Muslims would delight at the opportunity to worship at the Al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is a very holy place for them due to its connection with prophet Mohammed.

I believe that the Saudis can be trusted to deal fairly with Israel. Perhaps the time is not yet ripe for formal diplomatic relations and exchange of ambassadors, but trade relations can continue while the hand of peace between us is extended.

Human rights in Saudi Arabia need to be reformed. Presently, Saudi women are not permitted to drive and cannot travel anywhere without the permission of husband or parent. Nevertheless, Saudi women are permitted to attend universities and medical colleges and are highly respected.

The kingdom is flourishing. Magnificent shopping malls, an abundance of cafes and coffee houses, an excellent education for Saudi students, a nation where wealth pours down from the rich to the poor.

It is an example which the Gulf States try to emulate. Most of the Arab world is jealous of the achievements of Saudi Arabia.
We in Israel should make every attempt to increase our relationship with the Saudis. The benefit to both nations and peoples can be enormous.

Hopefully our New Year 5777 will see a growing and positive relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia , insh’Allah.