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Netanyahu flies to Saudi Arabia for secret meeting with MBS, Pompeo

November 23, 2020 at 2:19 pm

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) in Jerusalem [IL Prime Ministry/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret trip to Saudi Arabia yesterday to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Accompanied by Chief of Israeli Mossad Yossi Cohen, the Israeli officials apparently joined Bin Salman and Pompeo in Neom on the Red Sea coast, according to an aviation tracking data, Haaretz reported.

Flight-tracking websites showed that the plane was grounded for approximately two hours before it returned to Israel about half an hour past midnight.

A senior Saudi adviser told the Wall Street Journal that the leaders discussed several issues, including normalisation of ties and Iran, but that no substantial agreements were reached.

“The very fact the meeting happened, and was outed publicly, even if half-officially right now, is a matter of great importance,” Education Minister Yoav Gallant told Army Radio when asked about the visit.

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Yesterday’s meeting marked the first known encounter between senior Israeli and Saudi officials, as the US is pushing for more ties between Israel and some Gulf Arab states.

The Israeli prime minister’s office and officials in Saudi Arabia did not respond to requests for comment.

During a meeting with the Saudi foreign minister last month, Pompeo had urged the Saudis to consider normalising relations with Israel.

“We hope Saudi Arabia will consider normalising its relationships as well, and we want to thank them for the assistance they’ve had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far,” Pompeo said.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain signed normalisation deals with the occupation in September, becoming the third and fourth Arab countries to establish diplomatic relations with Israel after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

The deals have drawn widespread condemnation from Palestinians, who say the accords ignore their rights and do not serve the Palestinian cause.

Riyadh has so far declined to normalise ties with Israel, saying Palestinian statehood goals should be addressed first. However, the Saudis have allowed Israeli airliners to overfly their territory, a decision announced the day after Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, met with Bin Salman in Riyadh.