Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman met with senior Israeli officials during his visit to Egypt this week, the London-based Arab newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported on Wednesday.
The report said the meeting focused on the normalization of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and included the kingdom’s commitment to the “deal of the century,” the Middle East peace plan being devised by the Trump administration.
Within that framework, Israel would take part in the unprecedented real estate venture being sponsored by the Saudis in the Gulf of Aqaba.
Crown Prince Mohammed first announced plans for the 26,500-square-kilometer (10,230-square-mile) zone at an international investment conference in Riyadh last October.
Officials say public and private investment in the area is expected to reach $500 billion. The mega-city would be built on Saudi territory on the eastern shore of the Red Sea near the border with Jordan, and connect to Egypt across the gulf via a bridge running through the island of Tiran.
Known as Neom — from the Greek prefix neo (“new”) and first letter of the Arabic word mostaqbal (“future”) — the mega-city is being billed as “the world’s most ambitious project,” intended to become a transnational city and economic zone.
The crown prince’s stated objective for the project is to wean Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude exporter, off oil revenues.
According to the report, the prince is also applying immense pressure behind the scenes on Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to be part of the American deal.
If an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is struck, the Saudis will reportedly be the beneficiaries of considerable US investments, among other things in the Neom project. In exchange, they will act as the American’s spearhead for implementing the peace agreement.