Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman discussed a possible normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia during their clandestine meeting on Sunday night, according to a senior Saudi official.
Two Saudi government officials confirmed the meeting to The Wall Street Journal, with one of the officials saying that the meeting between the two leaders in Neom lasted several hours and focused on shared concerns about Iran and the possibility of a normalization deal between the two countries. However, no substantial agreements were reached during the meeting.
The secret meeting was the first known meeting between Israeli and Saudi leaders. Senior Israeli sources told Ynet on Monday that the Crown Prince was not opposed to the news of the meeting being made public. However, a tweet by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on Monday afternoon denying that the meeting took place seems to indicate that not all Saudi senior officials felt the same way.
“I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by Secretary of State Pompeo,” he wrote. “No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi.”
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
Netanyahu and Mossad head Yossi Cohen took off on a Gulfstream IV private jet owned by Israeli businessman Ehud ‘Udi’ Angel on Sunday evening shortly after 5:40 p.m. from Ben-Gurion Airport, as recorded by data from the FlightRadar24.com website. The flight traveled south along the eastern end of the Sinai Peninsula and then toward Neom, landing shortly after 6:30 p.m. The flight took off from Neom on its return journey to Israel at about 9:50 p.m. and flew the same route back to Ben-Gurion.
Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and the Saudi Foreign Ministry both declined to comment on the reports of the meeting. According to numerous reports the Crown Prince is in favor of normalizing ties with Israel but his father King Salman is opposed.
In an amusing illustration of the “secret” meeting, one Twitter user edited a picture of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with the Crown Prince to include Netanyahu and Cohen as well:
— Conservative TLVian 🇮🇱 (@qumranqu) November 23, 2020
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)