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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Saudi Denies Reported Talks Between Benjamin Netanyahu And Crown Prince

Saudi Denies Reported Talks Between Benjamin Netanyahu And Crown Prince

Saudi Arabia on Monday denied Israeli media reports of landmark talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Israeli public broadcaster Kan and other outlets had reported that the meeting took place Sunday, weeks after the Jewish state reached historic deals to normalise ties with two Saudi allies, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia on Monday denied Israeli media reports of landmark talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in a tweet.

"No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi."

Israeli public broadcaster Kan and other outlets had reported that the meeting took place Sunday, weeks after the Jewish state reached historic deals to normalize ties with two Saudi allies, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Those deals, known as the Abraham Accords, were brokered by the administration of US President Donald Trump, who leaves office in less than two months.

Kan's diplomatic correspondent said that Pompeo, who was in Israel last week before travelling onto Saudi during a regional tour, was also at the reported talks in the planned Red Sea city of NEOM.

Our take:

1. Both sides need a very firm agreement in order to handle properly the welcoming of Joe Biden to the White House with his Iran-Friendly policy. This is also needed to deal with Iran’s growing aggression and the over-confidence apparent in its official broadcasts since Biden was announced by the media as the next President of the United States.

2. Trump and Pompeo need a(nother) winning success in the region, as Trump's administration achieved in 4 years what Nobel Peace Prize Barack Obama and then Vice-President Joe Biden failed to do in 8 years: peace.

3. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to collect as many success stories to deal with an upcoming Israeli election as the the new government Netanyahu formed with his opponents breaking up not slowly and very surely.

4. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen maintain a strong and trustworthy friendship, alongside their common ally in the White House, Trump's son-in-law and adviser Mr. Jared Kushner.

All concerned are trying to maximize the huge potential of this unique combination before the new Biden's administration arrives. They will undoubtedly change the balance to be more supportive of Iran and less of Israel (although Biden's 2 sons are married to Jewish wives, Kamala Harris’ influential husband is Jewish). Biden will anyway have to support Israel as well as Saudi Arabia as they are the strongest and most Influential power in the region, as well as on USA policy in general. This strong alliance is not going to change as its roots are deeper and it’s above Biden’s head anyway.

5. The Israeli reports were half true: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Saudi Arabia for one day talks on Sunday, led by Secretary Pompeo and Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen.

6. The brief trip comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity between Israel and its Arab neighbors and as tensions arising with Iran, an adversary of both Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Although clandestine high-level meetings between Israeli and Arab officials are not uncommon, and the two countries have had a strong and loyal relationship for a while, the visit by Netanyahu to Saudi Arabia represents a significant development. Saudi Arabia is one of the most influential countries in the Arab world and Israel under Netanyahu and Yossi Cohen has become a tech, intelligence and arms empire that can neither be defeated nor ignored.

7. Israel has long maintained semi-secret security contacts with Saudi Arabia, as it has with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

8. The Saudi foreign minister signaled Saturday during the Group of 20 Summit in Riyadh that his country was open to forging official ties with Israel, but not unconditionally.

Saudi Arabia 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,” Prince Faisal said in an interview with Reuters.

With Trump’s reelection defeat, anxiety has risen in Saudi Arabia and Israel that President-elect Joe Biden will reverse Trump’s hard-line policies against Iran and seek to revive Washington’s participation in the Iran nuclear deal negotiated during the Obama administration and still recognized by European and other allies.

9. Mike Pompeo, probably the next Republican Candidate for the White House, on what may be his final official trip through the Middle East as Secretary of State, was in Saudi Arabia following a three-day visit to Israel in which he sought to cement Trump’s legacy of tilting U.S. policy toward one favored by Netanyahu’s government - much like Trump’s stance on Iran.

10. While secrecy is serving USA and Saudi's efforts to effectively deal with Iran's moves and "The Biden issue" - Netanyahu needs now as much positive publicity as possible, to balance the negative media at home.

So our conclusion is that Mr. Netanyahu visited Saudi Arabia, but did not meet Mohammed bin Salman personally, this time.



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