Israel Has Secret Contacts With Saudi Arabia, Senior Minister Reveals

Energy Minister Steinitz tells Army Radio 'it's the other side that is interested in keeping the ties quiet'

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presides over a meeting of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 7, 2017.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presides over a meeting of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 7, 2017. HANDOUT/REUTERS

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday that Israel has had covert contacts with Saudi Arabia amid common concerns over Iran, a first disclosure by a senior Israeli official of such contacts.

In an interview on Army Radio, Steinitz was asked why Israel was hiding its ties with Saudi Arabia, which does not have diplomatic ties with Israel.

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Steinitz replied: ”We have ties that are indeed partly covert with many Muslim and Arab countries, and usually (we are) the party that is not ashamed.

“It’s the other side that is interested in keeping the ties quiet. With us, usually, there is no problem, but we respect the other side’s wish, when ties are developing, whether it’s with Saudi Arabia or with other Arab countries or other Muslim countries, and there is much more ... (but) we keep it secret.”

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Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the Israeli military's chief of staff, gave an unprecedented interview with a Saudi newspaper last week in which he called Iran the "real and largest threat to region."

It marked the first time that any senior Israel Defense Forces officer, let alone the chief of staff, has been interviewed by a media organization in Saudi Arabia. 

Eisenkot told the newspaper, Elaph, that Israel and Saudi Arabia are in complete agreement about Iran's intentions. He also noted that Israel and Saudi Arabia have never fought each other.