Tel Aviv (GPA) – In a move in line with their warming relations with Saudi Arabia, Israel has moved to close the Jerusalem Al Jazeera branch and ban the outlet’s journalists.
Israel’s Communications Minister Ayoub Kara announced at a press conference on Sunday that officials would start taking steps to shut down Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem location. The first phase includes revoking press credentials for Al Jazeera journalists and employees. Kara has also reached out to broadcasting companies with the hope of removing Al Jazeera programming from their channels.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who expressed intent to close Al Jazeera earlier this year, was quick to laud Kara’s actions with praise on Twitter.
Banning Al Jazeera Jerusalem Would be a Logistical Nightmare
Despite Kara’s and Netanyahu’s firm intentions, Al Jazeera will continue to function as-is for the time being. Removing Al Jazeera from Israeli airwaves would require compliance from major broadcasting companies such as Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting– which could require rewriting laws that force the companies to comply. Officials cannot revoke press credentials unless Israeli security deems the Qatar-based outlet to be a national security threat.
But considering Israel’s modus operandi (which classifies virtually all pro-Palestinian activism to be a national security threat), it’s no surprise officials seek to shut down Al Jazeera: an outlet closely affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, Al Jazeera’s anti-Israel attitude is precisely why Netanyahu says he wants the branch shut down. Claiming their coverage of the al-Aqsa uprising was unprofessional.
So why Al Jazeera and why now? Netanyahu and Kara might try to blame their actions on Al Jazeera’s Palestinian coverage, but it seems like this is just another sign of the warming relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. After the Saudis, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and their allies declared diplomatic war against Qatar in June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan swiftly shut down Al Jazeera operations within their borders. Egypt closed down Al Jazeera broadcasting some years ago.
Clandestine Economic Saudi-Israeli Relations
On the surface, this in itself might not seem reason to justify Israel’s creeping alliance with the Saudis, but merely a further extension of Israel’s continuing tyranny. However, it certainly fits with the recent actions that suggest a strengthening of Saudi-Israeli ties.
In June, The Times reported that Israel and Saudi Arabia were set to establish economic relations for the first time, gradually increasing step-by-step. The move could potentially include shared airspace. These talks, of course, are all clandestine. And, of course, Saudi Arabia remains very sensitive towards any media reports that depict a possible Saudi-Israel alliance in any form.
Military Ties Vis a Vis Egypt
But Saudi Arabia and Israel aren’t just increasing economic ties; it appears they’re also inching toward military ties as well. Despite the long-standing public outcry, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced in June that Egypt would hand over the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. Under the agreement, Saudi Arabia and Egypt would share control of the Strait of Tiran. Due to Egypt’s already friendly relationship with Israel, Israeli ships currently pass through these waters. Thus, Egypt’s increasing maritime cooperation and transferring control of the Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia means that the Kingdom would have to abide by the Camp David Accords.
So Israel’s recent hostility towards Al Jazeera seems perfectly logical. Afterall, Israeli authorities mention nothing of targeting the outlet’s locations in Gaza or the West Bank. The outlet has denounced Israel’s verbal threats, mocking their attack on press freedom while calling themselves “the only democracy in the middle east.” For now, Al Jazeera Jerusalem will continue to function without interruption.
Also published on Medium.