According to Israeli media, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen “secretly” flew to Saudi Arabia and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on November 22nd.
It is not confirmed, but if it is true, and not simply a rumor would mark the first known encounter between senior Israeli and Saudi officials.
“Gantz does politics while the prime minister makes peace,” Netanyahu spokesman Topaz Luk tweeted.
This would also mean that the Trump Administration is growing desperate to guarantee even further support for Israel before the Biden administration moves to take its place in January, since it is unclear how active incoming US President Joe Biden will be in supporting Tel’Aviv’s ambitions.
Both Israel’s Kan public radio and Army radio reported of the visit, and it was allegedly held in Neom on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast.
According to Israeli daily Haaretz, aviation tracking data showed that a private jet had made a brief trip from Tel Aviv to Neom, where MBS and Pompeo had a scheduled meeting on November 22nd.
A Gulfstream IV private jet took off just after 17:40 GMT from Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, according to data from website FlightRadar24.com. The flight traveled south along the eastern edge of the Sinai Peninsula before turning toward Neom and landing just after 18:30 GMT, according to the data.
The flight took off from Neom around 21:50 GMT and followed the same route back to Tel Aviv.
Flight-tracking websites showed that the plane was grounded for approximately two hours before it returned to Israel about half an hour past midnight.
The jet, according to Haaretz, is the same private plane Netanyahu took several times for his visits to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Over the same weekend, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said his country has “supported normalization with Israel for a long time, but one very important thing must happen first: a permanent and full peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians”.
During a meeting with the Saudi foreign minister in October 2020, Pompeo had urged the Saudis to consider normalizing relations with Israel.
“We hope Saudi Arabia will consider normalizing 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.
It is unknown if there would be a normalization deal, but if true these reports mean that Israel and Saudi Arabia are openly willing to, possibly, work together. As two of the key US’ allies, it’s been no secret that they’ve cooperated together behind the scenes in the past.