Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly flew to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Israeli media said.
Sunday’s meeting, if confirmed, would mark the first known meeting between senior Israeli and Saudi officials, amid a US push to convince Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel.
Israel’s Kan public radio and military radio said on Monday that Mossad leader Yossi Cohen also attended the meeting, which was reportedly held in Neom on the Saudi Red Sea coast.
Netanyahu’s office and the US Embassy in Israel made no immediate comment. There was also no comment from the Saudi government.
According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, aviation tracking data showed that a private jet made a brief trip from Tel Aviv to Neom, where MBS and Pompeo had a meeting scheduled for Sunday.
Flight tracking websites showed the plane was immobilized for about two hours before returning to Israel about half an hour after midnight.
The jet, according to Haaretz, is the same private plane that Netanyahu has taken on several occasions for his visits to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Pompeo tried to persuade the Gulf powerhouse to follow its neighbours, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, in establishing formal relations with Israel – rapprochement based largely on shared concerns about Iran.
Riyadh has so far refused to normalize its relations with Israel, saying the goals of a Palestinian state should be addressed first. But the Saudis allowed Israeli airliners to fly over their territory to newly available Gulf destinations and to Asia.
Over the weekend, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said his country “has been supporting normalization with Israel for a long time, but one very important thing must happen first: an agreement of permanent and complete peace between Israelis and Palestinians ”.
During a meeting with the Saudi foreign minister last month, Pompeo urged the Saudis to consider normalizing relations with Israel.
“We hope that Saudi Arabia will also consider normalizing its relations, and we would like to thank them for the help they have had so far in making the Abrahamic Accords successful,” Pompeo said.