A thaw between Israel and Saudi Arabia relations would thus mark a major shift in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Thus, Saudi Arabia has developed clandestine business deals with Israeli companies in recent years, especially in security and intelligence. Israeli media reports have also claimed that the Israel Defense Forces has offered Saudi Arabia Iron Dome military technology to defend Saudi territory from Yemeni rockets.
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Khalid Alkhudair has pushed for additional legislation that will make it easier for women to enter the workforce, such as mandatory maternity leave and onsite nurseries for firms that employ 50 women or more. However, barriers to women’s employment remain, including the continuing ban on women driving.
With no obstacles left in his way, Prince Mohammed may move swiftly to implement his vision, all while giving the kingdom something it has not had in over half a century: a young, energetic king who could rule for decades. Whether he succeeds or fails, Saudi Arabia as we know it will never be the same again.
According to several observers, the plan’s goals, although positive for Saudi Arabia in the long-term, are not compatible with country’s political, social and economic context. “Basically, the regime could collapse by implementing their own plan, but they might also collapse if they don’t,” Kirkegaard explained. “They are in deep structural trouble, and that’s not counting the geopolitical pressure they face over their continued involvement in Syria and Yemen.”
The new freedoms covered in the decree are activites that most of the rest of the world regard as basic human rights: Go to the hospital, get a job, study, appear in court and file a police complaint without male permission. Despite those advances, Saudi women and girls still live with pervasive discrimination. They cannot study or travel abroad without approval from a husband, father, son or another male relative.
Anything that challenges the Wahhabi understanding of the Islamic faith (such as the sanctity and holiness of the Prophet’s companions) is subject to criminalization under the banner of sacrilegious behaviour. Punishments for blasphemy and apostasy include lengthy prison sentences, physical torture in the form of public flogging and, occasionally, death sentences.
While historical and theological antipathies do exist, it is rather Saudi Arabia’s political expediency that both prevents and advances equality between Shia and Sunnis. For the last decades, Saudi Arabia has allowed its government-sponsored Sunni clerics to demonize Shia believers, associate them with polytheists, therefore consolidating a history of oppression and ostracism from basic civil rights.