Netanyahu Secretly Flew to Saudi Arabia, Met MBS and Pompeo, Israeli Sources Say

Saudi adviser confirms to the Wall Street Journal that normalization and Iran were discussed at the secret meeting in Saudi Arabia on Sunday ■ Gantz and FM Ashkenazi were left in the dark, sources say

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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File photo: Netanyahu boarding the private plane that took him to Saudi Arabia.
File photo: Netanyahu boarding the private plane that took him to Saudi Arabia. Credit: Koby Gideon / GPO
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Saudi Arabia and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Israeli sources said Monday.

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen also attended the meeting, which took place in the city of Neom, according to the sources. The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment on the matter. The flight was seen on flight-tracking websites.

The t7-cpx plane on Sunday night Credit: Avi Scharf

Senior Saudi adviser confirmed the Netanyahu-MBS meeting, but said no agreements had been reached, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

According to the report, the adviser said normalization and Iran were discussed at the secret meeting in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

According to political sources, Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi were left in the dark about the meeting.

Netanyahu's aide Topaz Luk later tweeted that "Gantz is doing politics while the prime minister is making peace," apparently in reference to Gantz's announcement on Sunday that he has established a governmental commission of inquiry into Israel's procurement of submarines and other naval vessels in the so-called "submarine affair."

The flight took off from Israel at 7:30 P.M. and landed in Neom, remaining on the ground for about two hours. The plane returned to Israel at around half past midnight, according to the flight-tracking websites.

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This is the same private plane that Netanyahu took several times for his visits to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and that the prime minister intended to take for the White House ceremony for the signing of the normalization agreement with the UAE and Bahrain, before a public backlash forced him to fly with El Al.

Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud touched upon the recent normalization deals in an interview to Reuters, stating that 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."

This comes amid U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's tour of Gulf Arab states, where he touted the Trump administration's Mideast strategy that focused on Iran as “the central threat inside the region” and for a maximum pressure campaign that hampered Iran's ability to support militias in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

The outgoing secretary of state and the Trump administration have long tried to coax Saudi Arabia into joining other Arab countries in normalizing relations with Israel.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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