Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a private jet to Neom, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday for a secret meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Israeli media and The Wall Street Journal report. Two Saudi government advisers tell the Journal that in their first known face-to-face meeting, Netanyahu and bin Salman discussed Iran and normalizing relations, but no substantial agreements were reached. Yossi Cohen, the director of Israeli spy agency Mossad, was also on the trip, Israel's Army Radio reports.
Flight data showed a Gulfstream IV private jet Netanyahu likes to use traveling from Tel Aviv to Neom, a Saudi resort city being developed on the Red Sea.
"Pompeo traveled with an American press pool on his trip throughout the Mideast, but left them at the Neom airport when he went into his visit with the crown prince," The Associated Press reports. The Trump administration has recently helped broker deals to normalize relations between Israel and several Gulf Arab states, including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates. and Sudan. "Saudi Arabia is seen as the ultimate prize in the high-stakes diplomatic campaign," the Journal notes.
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"The Saudi government, under the direction of King Salman, has so far balked at formal ties with Israel so long as its conflict with the Palestinians remained unresolved," the Journal reports. "But Saudi Arabia's king has been at odds with his son, Prince Mohammed, over embracing the Jewish state. The king is a longtime supporter of the Arab boycott of Israel and the Palestinians' demand for an independent state, while the prince wants to move past what he sees as an intractable conflict to join with Israel in business and align against Iran."
Benny Gantz, Israel's alternate prime minister under a power-sharing agreement with Netanyahu, and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi were in the dark about the meeting, Haaretz reports. "Israel has long had clandestine ties to Gulf Arab states that have strengthened in recent years as they have confronted a shared threat in Iran," AP adds.
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