Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's crown prince, announced recently that a 10,230 square mile free enterprise zone, known as NEOM, focusing on business and industrial fields including energy and water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing will be created. This $500 billion plan extends across the borders of Saudi Arabia into Jordan and Egypt.
"NEOM is situated on one of the world’s most prominent economic arteries ... Its strategic location will also facilitate the zone’s rapid emergence as a global hub that connects Asia, Europe and Africa," quoted Haaretz.
The controversial issue at the heart of this plan is that part of the proposal states a bridge is going to be built over the Red Sea’s straights of Tiran where based on Israel’s 1979 peace treaty with Egypt is under the control of Israel. So, as media outlet such as Bloomberg reported “Israel’s involvement in the project is crucial.”
Member of Saudi royal family reportedly made secret trip to Israel over the past months. An Israeli official told AFP that Saudi Crown Prince secretly visited Tel Aviv in September. It is now reasonably believed that the reason behind his visit was negotiating about the establishment of the bridge with Israeli high-rank officials, on top of them the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Undoubtedly, NEOM should be considered as the beginning point of a closer connection between Riyadh and Tel Aviv. Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious Vision 2030 project and particularly NEOM plan has led him to call for serious foreign investors. Since the bridge is geo-politically and strategically a vital point for Israel, the biggest investors of NEOM are Israeli businessmen and surely some of American entrepreneurs and enterprisers.
One thing that could happen is that Saudi Arabia could recognize Israel. The Gulf of Aqaba was chosen not just because it would allow NEOM to spread into Egypt and Jordan, but also because of its proximity to Israel, which is promoting its “Red-Med” railway proposal as the perfect Mideast complementary component of the New Silk Road.