Jared Kushner Spearheads Saudi Investments in Israel

In another sign of Israel’s deepening business and security ties with Arab states, Saudi Arabia has committed $2 billion in public funds to Jared Kushner’s new private-equity group, Affinity Partners. As Dion Nissenbaum and Rory Jones note, this “marks the first known instance that the Saudi public investment fund’s cash will be directed to Israel, a sign of the kingdom’s increasing willingness to do business with the country, even though they have no diplomatic relations.” Drawing on interviews with Kushner and others close to the deal, Nissenbaum and Jones examine Kushner’s broader strategy, as well as responses by lawmakers in both the Middle East and the U.S.

[Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund] is tasked with transforming the domestic Saudi economy via investments in new industries and sprawling real-estate developments, such as a $500 billion futuristic city-state called Neom. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has told advisers and diplomats he hopes Israelis will play a big part in developing Neom, with potential investments in biotechnology and cybersecurity. In November 2020, the prince met at Neom with then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a sign Saudi Arabia could join the Abraham Accords. But new administrations in the U.S. and Israel slowed momentum.

After securing Saudi investment, Mr. Kushner and his team traveled in March to Israel to meet with dozens of Israeli companies looking for financial support from Affinity, according to those involved in the meetings. Mr. Kushner held meetings with Israeli startups working on everything from healthcare and agriculture to software and cyber, they said.

Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country without diplomatic relations with Israel that Mr. Kushner is wooing. Affinity is also looking to bring Israeli technology to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, according to people familiar with the discussions. Before leaving the White House, Mr. Kushner and his team were working to secure a normalization deal with Indonesia and Israel, but the deal didn’t come together before President Biden took office.

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Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Jared Kushner, Saudi Arabia

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism