The Israeli Foreign Ministry yesterday announced that it has hosted a six-member delegation of journalists from Arab states in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq.
In a tweet posted by the Arabic branch of the ministry, it announced that "a delegation of six journalists from Arab countries, hosted by the Foreign Ministry, arrived in Israel. For the first time, journalists from Saudi Arabia and Iraq participate in the delegation." It also publicised the plans for travel, visits and meetings that will be conducted, stating that "the delegation will visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Knesset and holy sites in Jerusalem. The delegation holds meetings with Knesset members and diplomats as well as a tour of the country."
The visit of the delegation is the first of its kind and is part of Israel's aim to improve relations with its Arab neighbours and the Gulf states in particular.
While this delegation might be the first publicly announced visit, it is certainly not the first. In January, Israel's Hadashot TV revealed that three prominent Iraqi delegations consisting of some of the country's leaders and politicians had secretly visited Israel over the previous few months, and met with government officials and academics in order to discuss Iraqi-Jewish heritage and to build a foundation for future ties between both nations.
Following the revelation, the Iraqi parliament decided to form a committee to investigate and judge the allegations of the unofficial visits to Israel.
Arab states, excepting Jordan and Egypt, do not officially recognise the State of Israel and have openly condemned the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories since the state's creation in 1948. Over the past few years, however, there have been numerous secret visits to Israel by leaders such as Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman and each year the concept of normalising relations with Israel becomes bolder and more resolute.
Last week, the foreign ministers of both Israel and Bahrain held a public meeting in the US, marking the first such incident to openly take place between a Gulf country and Israel.