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HomeQatar TimesSaudi owners of world’s largest Islamic bank become biggest shareholder in Israeli...

Saudi owners of world’s largest Islamic bank become biggest shareholder in Israeli firm

A recent poll detailed that 40% of respondents in Saudi Arabia are open to informal business or sports ties with Israel.

One of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest non-royal families has become the largest shareholder in an Israeli autotech company through an investment vehicle.

The Al Rajhi family’s Mithaq Capital, registered in the Cayman Islands and headquartered in Riyadh, has expanded its share in Israel’s Otonomo Technologies to 20.41%, as per a 20 July filing with the United Stated Securities and Exchange Commission.

Otonomo, headquartered in an affluent seaside neighbourhood north of Tel Aviv, is an automotive technology firm that delivers “advanced driver solutions” through data and intelligence collection.

The Saudi-owned fund acts as “an investment vehicle for certain members of the Al Rajhi family,” the regulatory filing detailed.

The family also owns Al Rajhi Bank, which is the world’s largest Islamic bank, with assets standing at $125 billion. The bank has around 600 branches across Saudi Arabia and over 1,400 ATMs, crowning it the largest retail and commercial banking operations in the kingdom.

It also owns Al Rajhi Factory for Plastic and Foam Industries and Al Watania, one of the leading chicken-processing companies in the Middle East.

“We like the innovation and the technology culture that Israel has, and we try to find ways to benefit from that,” said Muhammad Asif Seemab, one of the two directors of Mithaq Capital.

“As part of our investment process – other than Shariah compliance – we are country-agnostic, and sector-agnostic.”

Despite having no official diplomatic relations, Saudi Arabia and the occupying regime have been witnessing a gradual progress of ties.

Unofficial exchanges

Following a three-day visit to Israel, US President Joe Biden arrived in Saudi Arabia aboard an unprecedented direct flight from Tel Aviv, a move that Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called a “first official normalisation step.”

Hours ahead of president’s arrival, the Saudi civil aviation authority announced a decision to “open the kingdom’s airspace for all air carriers that meet the requirements of the authority for overflying,” in a statement.

This was an apparent gesture by Saudi Arabia to showcase its openness towards Israel ahead of Biden’s arrival.

Several Israeli journalists were allowed into Saudi Arabia to cover the regional conference in July using foreign passports.

Israel’s Channel 13 TV’s journalist Gil Tamary was among three Israeli reporters who entered the kingdom for a GCC+3 summit. He shared a video of himself in a car ride en route Mecca, despite a long-standing ban on the entrance of non-Muslims entering the city and neighbouring Medina.

In the year 2020, neighbouring states flocked to normalise ties with the settler-colonial regime, with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signing the controversial Abraham Accords to solidify all diplomatic relations. 

Morocco and Sudan shortly followed suit despite public outrage and opposition in both countries.

The signing was described by Arabs worldwide as a betrayal to the Palestinian cause, which has been at the centre of the region for decades. 

Riyadh was supportive of the process, however officials have maintained that no normalisation of ties between the two sides will take place until the Palestinian issue is resolved.

Qatar, unwavered by the growing trend, has maintained its commitment to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, drafted by Saudi Arabia, which stipulates that member countries shall refrain from normalising with Israel until it fully withdraws from lands occupied in 1967.

During his speech at the Jeddah summit, attended by Biden on 16 July, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani slammed Israel’s “politics of force” under which the Zionist state rejects concessions put forward by the Arab world. 

“It is inappropriate for the Arabs to propose settlements, while Israel’s role is confined to rejecting them and increasing its intransigence whenever the Arabs make concessions. Just as Israel has a public opinion, we also have a public opinion in the Arab world,” said Sheikh Tamim.

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