Saudi King promotes son to Crown Prince

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The King of Saudi Arabia has appointed his son as his Crown Prince.

King Salman’s son, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, will also become deputy prime minister while continuing to serve as defence minister. He replaces his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, whom the Saudi State media say has also been removed from his role as head of domestic security, as first in line to the throne.

In a first response by an Israeli official, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara welcomed the appointment and expressed hope that it would accelerate rapprochement with Israel: “Salman’s appointment means more economic cooperation in the Middle East, and not just regarding oil. The strengthening of relations with the Trump government is the beginning of a new and optimistic time between Saudi Arabia and regional states, including Israel and the Jewish people.”

It is unclear whether Kara’s comments had the approval of any official Israeli governmental body.

Writing in Haaretz, Zvi Barel commented that so far bin Salman had been “good news” for Israel and the US, his firm anti-Iranian stance making him “an important partner”. Barel also points out his agreement with the US on the need to combat Russian influence in the Middle East; to topple President Assad’s regime in Syria; and to act against ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah.

According to a statement from the White House, Trump spoke to bin Salman yesterday and discussed the “priority of cutting off all support for terrorists and extremists,” the ongoing dispute with Qatar, economic ties between Washington and Riyadh, and efforts to drive forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Speaking at the 17th annual Herzliya Conference in Israel, Tamir Pardo, former Head of Mossad, Sir John Sawers GCMG, former Chief of Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and Dr. Philip Gordon, former Special Assistant to President Obama agreed that the promotion of bin Salman was expected and more a case of “when not if”. Sawyers stated he was “surprised but not shocked”.

In his role as defence minister, Bin Salman has been leading Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. He is also responsible for overseeing the kingdom’s energy policy and economic reform. The decision to appoint him as Crown Prince was approved by 31 out of 34 members of the Allegiance Council, which is made up of senior princes of the royal family.