Saudi-Israel Backchannel Takes Hit After Officials Dismissed Over Khashoggi Murder, Report Says

Two of MBS’ close aides allegedly led covert efforts to improve ties between Jerusalem and Riyadh, but sources tell WSJ their involvement in killing of dissident journalist ‘dampened appetite for risky foreign policy endeavors’

Dec 18, 2018

Efforts to improve the relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia have been seriously hindered after Riyadh fired two Saudi officials leading the project over suspected involvement in the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

One of the officials, former media adviser to the court Saud al-Qahtani, issued directives to the Saudi press with the goal of improving Israel’s image. The two countries have no diplomatic ties and anti-Israel sentiments are widespread in the kingdom.

The other official, also a former close aide to Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a subordinate of al-Qahtani, reportedly made several secret trips to Israel to look into employing Israeli surveillance technology, sources familiar with the matter told the Journal. The alleged visits would make former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri the most senior Saudi official to ever set foot in Israel.