The international backlash over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia has cast a shadow over improved relations with Israel, as it emerged that two Saudi officials implicated in the crime had been instrumental in negotiating the rapprochement.
“Things have definitely cooled off right after Khashoggi’s murder,” a senior Saudi government official told The Wall Street Journal. “The last thing the kingdom wants is for this to come out now and cause another backlash.”
Citing unnamed officials “familiar with the matter,” the paper said that both officials who were fired for their involvement in the murder – Saud al-Qahtani and Ahmed al-Assiri – were the ones driving the outreach to Israel, and their sudden departure will mean a slowdown, at least.
Qahtani, a media adviser, reportedly ordered Saudi press to soften Israel’s image as an enemy, and his subordinate Assiri made several secret visits to Israel.
Besides regional political matters, the contacts were also very much business-related.
Sources said that Saudi Arabia was considering investing $100 million in Israeli firms, which was derailed by the Khashoggi disclosures.