Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen reportedly flew to Saudi Arabia to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
According to the Israeli sources privy to the developments, Netanyahu used a private jet belonging to businessman Udi Angel, to fly to Neom, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday. Netanyahu has used Angel’s private plane for making past diplomatic trips as well. The plane left Israel after 5 PM on Sunday evening and returned some time after midnight.
A report published in the Wall Street Journal cited a Saudi source to claim Israeli and Saudi sides discussed the normalisation of ties between the two countries and the threat they face from Iran. One of the sources quoted by the WSJ said that the meeting between the leaders of the two countries lasted for several ties during which the establishment of diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Jerusalem was discussed. However, the meeting did not yield any concrete agreements.
However, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan rubbished the reports of a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister and Saudi crown Prince. He posted on Twitter that only Saudi and American officials were present.
I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo. No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi.— فيصل بن فرحان (@FaisalbinFarhan) November 23, 2020
But the Education Minister of Israel, Yoav Gallant, appeared to confirm the meeting and hailed it as an “amazing achievement” and “a matter of great importance” in an interview with Army Radio.
The trip was kept under tight wraps and even key Israeli leaders such as Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi were not informed about the meeting before it took place.
The US Secretary of the State Mike Pompeo also met Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi crown prince MBS, in Neom, a city in northern Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea. Earlier on Monday, Pompeo said that he held a constructive meeting with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince the night before. However, he made no reference to the presence of the Israeli leader. Even Netanyahu’s office did not confirm the meeting and neither did the Saudi press made any mention of the talks.
Meeting between Saudi and Israeli leader an attempt to normalise ties between the erstwhile foes
Traditionally, Saudi Arabi and Israel have been foes. However, the recent meeting between the leaders of the two countries should be viewed in the context of the United States’ attempts to normalise ties between Israel and the Arab countries, who had been in a bitter dispute for decades over the vexed issued of Palestine. Since the last few months, Pompeo and the Trump administration have been encouraging Arab countries to normalise their ties with Israel.
Earlier, America had mediated to normalise ties between Israel and three Arab countries—the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan. The recent meeting between Netanyahu and his Saudi counterpart, MBS, is viewed by many as a parting gift of the Trump administration in America’s Middle-East policy before President-elect Joe Biden officially assumes charge.