Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly travelled to the Saudi city of Neom on Sunday to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Various Israeli media report this. None of those involved gave official confirmation to the news, but neither has it been denied by Netanyahu’s entourage.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have maintained secret ties for years, but this is the first time a meeting at this high level has been reported. In recent months there have been some breakthroughs in relations between Israel and Arab countries. For example, the country recently concluded diplomatic relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
According to the Israeli press, Netanyahu was accompanied by Yossi Cohen, head of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad. Netanyahu’s flight was spotted on sites that track flight movements. His plane was grounded in Neom for five hours.
Israel and its new Arab allies intend to isolate Iran – that country is the greatest threat to stability in the Middle East, the new partners believe.
Riyadh has so far always been reluctant to the agreements between Israel and the Gulf states, but the kingdom agreed to have its airspace flown over for the new air connections between the three countries. The flight ban was based on the fact that the Saudis do not recognize Israel as a state and do not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.
For years, a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians was a condition for Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel, but some Arab countries have therefore abandoned that condition.