The agreement includes an option for the purchase of a further 20,000 units over two years.
Riyadh, November 15 – King Salman of Saudi Arabia has inked a deal with an Israeli beverage manufacturer for the kingdom to purchase tens of thousands of carbonated-drink machines to be distributed among the extensive Ibn Saud clan that runs the country, and to serve as gifts for visiting dignitaries.
The deal, signed this week, calls for Lod-based SodaStream to supply 45,000 machines and 500,000 accessories such as bottles, carbon dioxide cartridges, and flavor packets, to be delivered in several installments over the next six months. King Salman and Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir reached the agreement with SodaStream CEO Dan Birnbaum after a week of negotiations. Neither party disclosed the amount Saudi Arabia will pay, but experts estimate the value of the deal for SodaStream at over 5 million dollars. The agreement includes an option for the purchase of a further 20,000 units over two years.
SodaStream markets its product as a more economical alternative to store-bought carbonated drinks. The Israeli pedigree of its manufacturing has been the subject of protests by pro-Palestinian activists, even after the company relocated its main manufacturing facility out of a disputed area on which Palestinians aim to create a state. Assessments differ as to the economic impact of the protest movement on SodaStream’s bottom line, but in any case the Saudi Arabia contract appears to demonstrate that the wider Arab world has lost patience with Palestinian demands and intransigence.
Birnbaum credited unnamed middlemen for facilitating the agreement. “In the end, peace will come to our region because of recognized shared interests, be they economic or otherwise,” he told reporters. “This deal is a demonstration of that fact. Governments can negotiate all they want, but unless the peoples of the region wake up to the fact that prosperity and security are not a zero-sum game, those negotiations will have limited effect.” He added that negotiations were underway with three other Arab states for a combined sales total that dwarfs the Saudi deal.
Analysts expect the trend to continue. “Economic realities are such that they tend to trump declared ideology, even in the ideology-driven Middle East,” noted commentator Hugh Dontzei. “Saudi Arabia has long been one of Israel’s most ardent foes, but has come to realize where the future lies, and it’s not in continued denial of economic realities. I wouldn’t be surprised if in just a few years SodaStream will ink a deal with Students for Justice in Palestine for a bunch of those machines.”
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