Saudi Arabian Money to be Invested in Israeli Start-Ups Through Jared Kushner’s Private Equity Fund - The Jewish Voice
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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Saudi Arabian Money to be Invested in Israeli Start-Ups Through Jared Kushner’s Private Equity Fund

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Jared Kushner’s new private-equity fund plans to invest millions of dollars of Saudi Arabia’s money in Israeli startups, people familiar with the investment plan told The Wall Street Journal on Saturday.

Affinity Partners, which has raised more than $3 billion, including a $2 billion commitment from the kingdom’s sovereign-wealth fund, has already selected the first two Israeli firms to invest in, these sources said, according to a report on the Israel National News web site.

The decision 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, as was reported by INN. This could help lay the groundwork for a breakthrough normalization pact between the two countries.

In an interview, Kushner said he viewed his investment plans as an extension of his work in the White House in advancing ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors, which have long refused to normalize relations with Israel until its leaders agreed to the creation of a Palestinian state, according to the INN report.

“If we can get Israelis and Muslims in the region to do business together it will focus people on shared interests and shared values,” he said. “We kicked off historic regional change which needs to be reinforced and nurtured to achieve its potential.”

In May of 2021, Axios’ Barak Ravid reported that Kushner was in the process of establishing an organization called the Abraham Accords Institute for Peace, to work on deepening the normalization agreements he helped strike between Israel and Arab countries.

Ravid also reported that The Abraham Accords, signed in September 2020, were arguably Donald Trump’s biggest foreign policy achievement and the biggest breakthrough for relations between Israel and the Arab world for 25 years.

Joining Kushner in this venture was Avi Berkowitz who played a major role in negotiating the Abraham Accords, as well as Israeli-American businessman and Democratic donor Haim Saban; and three heavy hitters from the region: the Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba and Abdulla R. Al-Khalifa, and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, as was reported by Axios.

Axios reported that the non-partisan, non-profit organization will have a five-year mandate and be funded through private donations. According to a 2021 statement, it will focus on increasing trade and tourism between the five signatory countries — Israel, Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco and Sudan — and developing programs to foster people-to-people connections between the countries. Axios also reported that it will “provide analysis of the benefits of normalization and the potential benefits additional Arab countries can receive if they join the Abraham Accords.”

INN reported that Kushner and his team declined to discuss which companies they are working with or how much cash is likely to be directed to Israel. He also declined to discuss his talks with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who oversees the Saudi investment fund’s strategic decisions.

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s $600 billion Public Investment Fund, whose board is chaired by Prince Mohammed and includes senior government ministers, declined to comment, as was reported by INN.  The government’s media office didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Israel has been for years rumored to have behind-the-scenes ties with Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis have vehemently denied those rumors.

INN reported that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi Crown Prince reportedly held a secret meeting last November in which they discussed the possibility of normalizing relations between their two countries.

Subsequent reports said the Crown Prince pulled back from a normalization deal with Israel largely because of the US election result, according to the INN report. Riyadh denied the meeting had even taken place.

Saudi Arabian officials have repeatedly said that a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital is a prerequisite for Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel. (Additional reporting by: Fern Sidman)

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