Google Plans First Fiber-Optic Network Between Saudi Arabia and Israel

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2012 / Getty Images
November 24, 2020

Google is planning a fiber-optic network that will connect Saudi Arabia and Israel through internet traffic for the first time as part of a larger project sending signals from Europe to India.

The project, called the Blue Raman internet cable route, will run 5,000 miles and could cost up to $400 million, a Dubai-based telecommunications company told the Wall Street Journal. The project aims to circumvent internet traffic going through Egypt, which charges outsized fees to telecommunications companies for connections traveling between Europe and India.

This alternate route could bring together Israel and Saudi Arabia, two historic adversaries, economically and politically. Neither country has formally opened channels of communication, but a flurry of peace deals that the United States brokered between Israel and other Gulf countries opens the door to economic arrangements.

Israeli communications minister Yoaz Hendel expressed openness and optimism about the plan.

"In any place where you can lay down cables overland or undersea, you also create mutual interests," he said in an interview.

Hendel downplayed concerns about data breaches, saying Israel "knows how to defend its infrastructure and its data."

The Blue Raman project is only one of many economic agreements Jerusalem has scored in recent months with other Gulf countries. Because of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords, Israel now allows travel to and from the United Arab Emirates, and it has also opened the door to other Muslim-majority countries such as Kosovo and Bahrain.

Since the first wave of normalization, the Trump administration has eyed normalizing economic and diplomatic ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia as its main goal in the region. In a final push before the Biden administration takes over, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has concentrated his efforts on increasing engagement between the two countries.

While on a seven-nation tour through the Middle East, Pompeo told National Review that he expects "many countries" to follow in the footsteps of Muslim-majority Gulf nations that have already recognized Israeli sovereignty.

"I'm confident there'll be more nations that will follow," Pompeo said. "The reason I'm confident, by the way, is because it's the right thing for those countries to do."