Israeli minister calls for full Saudi ties and official Riyadh visit
Senior Israeli ministers have called on Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.
Speaking at the Herzliya conference on Thursday, Israel’s intelligence and transportation minister Yisrael Katz asked King Salman to invite Prime Minister Netanyahu to Riyadh and to send newly appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Tel Aviv in return.
"I call upon Salman, the King of Saudi, to invite the prime minister of Israel Netanyahu to visit Saudi Arabia," Katz said, at the annual gathering of Israeli political leaders and strategists.
"We saw what a wonderful host you can be... when President Trump was there. You can also send your heir, the new one, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He's a dynamic person. He is an initiator. And he wants to break through.
"Exactly this way... they know who Iran is. They know we have to create an access vis-a-vis Iran. You can send him for a meeting in Israel and I promise you, he's going to be a very welcome guest."
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's defence minister, also called for "full diplomatic and economic relations" at the conference.
A peace deal must be reached with "moderate Arab Sunni countries" before a peace agreement could be made with the Palestinians, Lieberman said.
He said: "The only light at the end of the tunnel is a complete regional agreement." The hard-right defence minister added: "Full diplomatic and economic relations. Not under the table, but on the table.”
"I saw research on what the result of a regional agreement and full economic relations would mean between Israel, the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. This would mean an additional revenue of $45bn for Israel. That's the potential. We have to clearly say what our priorities are."
Prince Salman's appointment as crown prince and heir to the Saudi throne has brought renewed hope of a rapprochement between the two countries, according to communications minister Ayoub Kara.
“Salman’s appointment means more economic cooperation in the Middle East, and not just regarding oil,” Kara said in a statement. “The strengthening of relations with the Trump administration is the beginning of a new and optimistic time between Saudi Arabia and regional states, including Israel and the Jewish people.”
Saudi Arabia has refused to recognise Israel since its inception in 1948 and has supported Palestinian rights to sovereignty over territory occupied by Israel since 1967. However, the Gulf kingdom did not participate in any of the Arab-Israeli Wars.
Both countries see Iran as a strategic threat and are close allies of the United States, while recent years have seen growing ties between the bastion of Sunni Islam and the self-proclaimed "Jewish state".
Israel has also been supportive of a blockade of Qatar led by Saudi Arabia. Tel Aviv has repeatedly called on Qatar not to give asylum to key Palestinian figures, including Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Azmi Bishara.
During a tour of the Middle East last month, US President Donald Trump flew directly from Saudi Arabia to Israel in a flight dubbed a “historic moment” in relations between the two countries by deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Talks aimed at establishing economic ties between the countries began last week, according to The Times. Arab and American sources said the links would start small and allow Israeli businesses to operate in the Gulf, and possibly allow El Al, the national airline to fly over Saudi airspace.
Stay informed with MEE's newsletters
Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked
Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.