Saudi Arabia to change laws to allow Israeli Arabs to work in the country - but not Israeli Jews

The change will reportedly be announced in the next few months as part of wide-ranging shifts in financial policy.


Saudi Arabia will reportedly be changing its laws to allow Israeli Arabs to work in the country – while still preventing Israeli Jews from doing so.

The planned policy shift, which was announced by Israel’s Globes financial newspaper, was described as part of the long-term thaw in the relationship between the two countries.

The paper described Israeli Arab graduates of Israeli universities as “esteemed as professionals in the Arab world”.

As part of wide-ranging plans by Saudi Arabia to reduce its financial dependence on the oil industry by expanding other economic sectors, the country is also reportedly considering a plan to give non-Saudi nationals the ability to acquire permanent resident status. Up until now, foreign nationals living in the country have to annually renew residency and employment permits every year.

Despite the two countries enjoying no formal diplomatic relations, last week Arab media sources reported that the Saudis had purchased $300 million (£236 million) of spy software from Israel as part of significant military deal reached between representatives in London. Globes also quoted an unnamed senior Saudi diplomat saying that it was “only a matter of time” before an Israeli official would visit his country.

Antisemitism is widespread in Saudi Arabia, with Jews blamed for a variety of ills and the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery frequently cited. A few decades ago, foreigners wishing to work in Saudi Arabia reportedly had to sign documents stating that they were not Jewish.

Saudi Arabia has previously refused to permit people with links to Israel to enter the country. Entry, as in many Arab countries, is refused to people with Israeli stamps in their passports (since 2013, Israel stopped stamping most passports of visitors to the country).

In 2014, a Saudi official said that Jews would be allowed to enter the country and work there unless they had Israeli citizenship. As an example, they said that “if a worker is a citizen of Yemen but practises Judaism, the [Saudi] Embassy [in Yemen] would not object to issuing him a work visa for the kingdom”.

However, in practice Jews have still reported difficulties in obtaining visas to the country if they are clearly identifiable as Jewish.

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