Jared Kushner’s new fund plans to invest Saudi money in Israel

Jared Kushner’s new direct investment fund plans to invest millions of Saudi dollars in Israeli startups, according to people familiar with the project. A sign of the warming of relations between two historical rivals.

The sources added that Affinity Partners, which has raised more than $3 billion, including a $2 billion commitment from the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, has already selected its first two Israeli companies to invest in.

This is the first time that, in a known manner, funds from the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, have been allocated to projects in Israel. The novelty testifies to the kingdom’s growing desire to do business with this country, even if the two countries do not officially have any diplomatic relations. This move could help lay the groundwork for a decisive normalization agreement between the two capitals.

Israel is strengthening its trade and security partnerships with Arab countries, particularly the United Arab Emirates, after nearly two years of negotiations under the auspices of the United States that led to the conclusion of the historic normalization treaties. Mr. Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Donald Trump and to whom he was a principal adviser, played a crucial role in the signing of these so-called agreements. During this period, he also established strong relations with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the de facto ruler of the kingdom. Since leaving the administration, Kushner has leveraged contacts made during his time in the White House throughout the Middle East to grow the private equity fund, a venture that was supposed to earn him huge commissions, whether or not his investments proved successful.

“Increasing prosperity in the region and building economic bridges there will help cement the long-term relationships that were created when the Abraham Accords were signed.”

As part of negotiations to secure funding from the kingdom, Saudi officials have agreed that Affinity Partners will invest in Israeli companies, informed sources said, adding that Riyadh could also open up its economy to them as part of the process. Mr. Kushner.

In his talks with Saudi leaders, Mr. Kushner and his team warned them that their country risked losing access and opportunities associated with what they call the “Silicon Valley of the Middle East” to their neighbors who signed the Abraham agreements with Israel, according to the sources. Say.

During an interview, Kushner said he views his investment plans as an extension of his tenure at the White House, which is aimed at strengthening ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The latter has long refused to normalize relations with the Jewish state if Israeli leaders do not accept the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“If we can get Israelis and Muslims in the region to do business together, it will cause them to focus on common interests and values,” he added. We have begun a historic regional revolution that needs to be fostered and nurtured in order to realize its potential. »

Mr. Kushner and his team did not want to comment on the companies they work with or on how much money they might put in Israel. He also refused to discuss his dealings with Mohammed bin Salman, who oversees the strategic directions of the Saudi Investment Fund. People familiar with the discussions stress that Prince Mohammed must necessarily agree to any decision to invest directly in Israel.

A spokesman for the $600 billion Saudi sovereign fund, whose board is chaired by Mohammed bin Salman and includes senior ministers, declined to comment for this article. The Government Press Relations Department did not want to answer our questions.

The mission of the Public Investment Fund is to transform the Saudi national economy by investing in new sectors and giant real estate projects, such as a futuristic city-state called NEOM, a $500 billion project. Prince Mohammed bin Salman told his advisers and diplomats that he hopes the Israelis will play an important role in the development of NEOM, including investing in biotechnology and cybersecurity. In November 2020, Mohammed bin Salman met then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in NEOM, a sign that Saudi Arabia might in turn ratify the Ibrahim Accords. But since new governments in the United States and Israel came to power, this dynamic has run out of steam.

After securing the Saudi investment, Mr. Kushner and his team traveled to Israel in March to meet with dozens of local companies interested in financial support from Affinity, according to people familiar with the matter. They said Mr. Kushner has organized meetings with Israeli startups working in various sectors, ranging from medical care to agriculture to software and the Internet.

Jared Kushner can open doors for you. He is able to introduce Israeli companies into countries with which we do not have real relations, such as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.”

“Increasing prosperity in the region and building economic bridges there will help solidify the long-term relationships forged when the Abraham agreements were signed,” said Eli Wortman, co-founder of PICO Venture Partners, which helped organize meetings for Mr. Kushner and his associates. a team.

Mr. Kushner has introduced his investment firm to other oil-rich Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, which have not signed the Abraham Accords, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Prior to this treaty, the UAE had already allowed access to its markets for Israeli companies with activities in other countries. Today, Abu Dhabi has the possibility to make direct investments in Israel itself and has concluded a series of contracts. The UAE’s sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala Investments, which manages $250 billion in assets, has invested up to $20 million in six Israeli-based or state-backed venture capital firms. Another Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund, ADQ, has committed $105 million to Aleph Farms, an Israeli company that produces artificial meat.

Saudi Arabia is not the only country where Kushner is flirting without diplomatic ties with Israel. Affinity is also looking to bring Israeli technology to Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country by population, according to sources familiar with the talks. Before leaving the White House, Kushner and his team were working on a normalization agreement between the two countries, but it was not finalized before President Biden took office.

Indonesian officials did not respond to our requests.

Mr. Kushner’s choice to make the Middle East the heart of his business activities after his time in the White House has earned him criticism from some Democratic parliamentarians. The latter questions whether supporting Saudi Arabia is not a punishment for its unwavering support for Mohammed bin Salman during his stay in the White House. Kushner and the Trump administration defended the crown prince after US intelligence discovered he had approved a plan to assassinate or capture Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist for the British newspaper, The Guardian. Washington Post He was killed by a Saudi team in Istanbul in 2018. Mohammed bin Salman has always denied ordering the operation.

Affinity says it is proud of its partnership with the Saudi Fund and rejects allegations that it is in any way connected to Mr. Kushner’s support for Mohammed bin Salman while he was in the White House.

On the ground, Affinity faces competition from other investors to attract the best Israeli startups. In recent years, the influx of international capital has led to a domestic technology boom. 2021 was a record year in terms of fundraising, before the market slowed during the first quarter of 2022.

Ayelet Frisch, the strategic advisor and Israeli brand expert who helped organize the Affinity meetings, said Mr. Kushner’s speech resonated with many companies.

Jared Kushner can open doors for you, assuring who was the chief strategic advisor to the late Israeli President Shimon Peres. He is able to introduce Israeli companies to countries with which we do not have real relations, such as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. »

Kushner said that the possibility of normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel will be accelerated through closer economic relations.

Mr. / Dr. concluded. Kushner.

(Translated by Gregoire Arnold from the original English version)

Leave a Comment