JERUSALEM (TPS/JNS) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an unannounced trip to Neom, Saudi Arabia on Sunday to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a senior official confirmed to Israel Hayom. The official added that Yossi Cohen, the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, was at the meeting as well.
The Nov. 22 meeting was arranged by US Special Representative for Iran Elliott Abrams. The Israeli official noted that while Riyadh had initially agreed to the meeting’s occurrence being leaked to the media, the story broke sooner than planned.
The plan was to leak some of the details of the meeting over several hours, but once Israeli media reported that Netanyahu had abruptly canceled a planned Cabinet meeting, as well as images of the presumed flight path of the plane that took him and Cohen to Neom, the information was made public in its entirety.
A senior Saudi official confirmed in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that Netanyahu met with bin Salman. According to the source, the two leaders discussed the Iranian threat and the normalization of ties between the two countries.
The Trump administration, which has worked hard on the peace agreements between Israel and the Arab states, and in particular on the agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, wants to record another achievement before President Donald Trump ends his term.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zohari said that the news of Netanyahu’s visit to Saudi Arabia is “serious if true,” and called on the Saudis to “clarify what happened, as this reflects an insult to the nation and a relinquishing of the Palestinians’ rights.”
Senior Israeli commentator Shimrit Meir said that the publication of Netanyahu’s trip to Saudi Arabia “is the dramatic event here.”
The publication is probably with the agreement of the Saudis, who understand that they must arrive in January when the administrations change “more prepared,” she explained.
Reporter Barak Ravid said that “sometimes you have to say the obvious: this is a huge drama! There have been similar meetings in the past, but they have been under severe censorship.”
Pointing out that the Israelis, Americans and most of all, the Saudis knew the meeting would be publicized, he said it was “significant diplomatic progress, a signal to Iran and a message to the Biden administration.”
Ravid added that he has been following Netanyahu’s covert diplomatic missions since 2012, and recently “things ripened and burst out like from a volcanic crater” and “Netanyahu deserves a lot of credit for that.”
Saudi Arabia appears to be on the way to joining the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain who signed a historic peace agreement with Israel at the White House on September 15, the first agreement to be signed between Israel and an Arab country in 25 years.
Announced on August 13, the Abraham Accords is the first between a Gulf state and Israel and is expected to lead to similar agreements with other Arab countries, possibly Oman and the rest of the Sunni Gulf states.