A Kuwaiti media personality made a unique appearance on Israeli television on Tuesday, and brushed off death threats that she received over tweets she made calling for normalization with the Jewish state.
“I didn’t suddenly establish normalization,” the controversial Fajr al-Saeed, 52, said in a video interview from Kuwait with Israel’s Kan public broadcaster. “It’s not like I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport and entered Israel and said to you, ‘Let’s go, I’m normalizing relations with you.'”
“I expressed a wish and a hope. You can take it or leave it, but it’s my personal opinion.”
The founder of Kuwaiti satellite TV station Scope said she has never shied away from controversy.
Saeed, who marked the New Year by tweeting a call in Arabic and Hebrew for Arab-Israeli ties and trade relations, said her opinion of Israel started to change after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
“The turning point for me was the funeral of Rabin, when I saw world leaders present there,” she told Kan, saying that if an Arab leader had died at the same time, only heads of state from the region would have attended and world leaders would have sufficed with condolence messages.
אני אוהד של מספרים בודדים, אני מצפה לשנה החדשה 2019. זהו אירוע שמח, אני רוצה לומר שאני תומך בנורמליזציה של היחסים עם מדינת ישראל והפתיחות המסחרית שלה, ואת ההשקעה של ההון הערבי להשקעה ותיירות. כיפת הסלע והכנסייה
— فجر السعيد ???????? (@AlsaeedFajer) December 31, 2018
“I received threats because of what I said about Israel, like any threat I get on the ideas I raise,” she said in the interview. “I’m used to getting threats — it’s not something new for me, nor for my opinions.
“I think that at this particular time especially, there is a possibility of greater acceptance of peace with Israel,” she said. “I’m only afraid of Allah, praise be to Him.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded to her New Year’s tweets by tweeting back in Arabic, praising Saeed’s courage to “change the landscape” and saying cooperation with Israel would bring benefits to the citizens of Arab countries.
Saeed has been twice to the West Bank and to Jerusalem, including to Al-Aqsa Mosque at the Temple Mount-Haram al-Sharif, and was warmly greeted in a meeting with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. She said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the key obstacle to normalized relations between Israel and the Arab world, and that “Israel has to accept the establishment of a neighboring Palestinian state. If that doesn’t happen, there won’t be peace.”
“We are stretching out our hand to peace, and we hope that you will also stretch out your hand in peace,” she told the Israel TV interviewer.
Saeed’s show was once ordered off the air by the Kuwaiti government after she poked fun at government members. In 2010 Scope TV’s offices were trashed by an angry mob after her comedy show ridiculed Kuwait’s ruling family and religious leaders.
Kuwait maintains a hostile relationship with Israel. Unlike other Gulf states, Israelis are barred from entering Kuwait and foreigners having an Israeli stamp in their passport may be turned away.
In a 2017 meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly, Kuwait parliament speaker Marzouq Al Ghanim called the Israeli delegation “occupiers and murderers of children.”
Israel has been investing much effort in recent years in improving its ties with Arab and Muslim countries, including Chad, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in October made an unexpected visit to Oman, and Israeli ministers have in recent months made stops in other Gulf countries.
Earlier this month, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa defied Arab consensus and defended Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He also expressed support for Israel’s operation to expose and destroy attack tunnels the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah has dug across the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Israel has also been among the stanchest international defenders of Saudi Arabia’s leadership in the case of the killing of a journalist inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. The warming of ties between Jerusalem and Riyadh, which has yet to become official, has been linked to the two countries’ common enemy, Iran.