Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yossi Cohen, head of the Mossad, flew to Saudi Arabia to meet with the crown prince there before returning to Israel in a very quick visit that was made in secret.
This occurred after a week of historic meetings in Jerusalem between Israeli and American officials and Bahrain’s first official state visit to Israel last week with a delegation led by the foreign minister.
After Israeli media broke the news of Netanyahu’s trip on Sunday, some officials here confirmed the meeting took place, but Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan denied that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman met any Israelis in the kingdom on Sunday.
“I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo,” he wrote on Twitter. “No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi.”
The U.S. had no official comment, but U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo was in Saudi Arabia at the same time, on the final leg of his seven-country tour to shore up American interests in the region — and possibly push for more countries to join the Abraham Accords.
Pompeo spent three days in Israel last week where he bolstered U.S.-Israel relations with several moves including becoming the first Israeli secretary of state to visit a “settlement” and the Golan Heights — both disputed territories in the international arena; announced new sanctions on Iran; moved to defund the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement; and announced that goods imported from Israeli settlements in the West Bank can now use a “made in Israel” label.
“For a long time, the State Department took the wrong view of settlements and took a view that didn’t recognize the history of this special place,” Pompeo said during his visit.
He also said on Fox News that he expects more countries to join the Abraham Accords whether that be in a few weeks or a few months.
“We got it right. We took away the excuse of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. We took away the excuse that the United States was going to appease Iran. And, in the end, those were good, sovereign decisions by those leaders,” Pompeo emphasized. “Those countries are more safe, more secure, they will be more prosperous. I saw Emirati businessmen in Israel I saw Israeli businessmen in the Emirates. Good things are happening. Those two countries are coming closer and closer together and everybody who joins the Abraham Accords will see the benefits for their own people.”
Though Saudi Arabia and Israel did not announce a peace deal as many had hoped after news of the meeting broke, Google announced a possible route for a fiber-optic cable that will traverse both countries despite the two not having formal diplomatic relations.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu had a conversation with Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa and said he will travel to Manama soon.
“We are both excited to bring the fruits of peace to our people and countries in such a short time. That’s why he invited me to come soon for a formal visit in Bahrain and I will do this happily,” Netanyahu said.