Saudis confirm that Netanyahu flew to Saudi Arabia last night for ‘secret’ meeting with Crown Prince, Pompeo

November 23, 2020


[Note by Tom Gross]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia yesterday evening.

(This is the first publicly acknowledged meeting between the Israeli and Saudi leaders. In past dispatches, I have alluded to two other meetings sources say they have had in recent years.)

A Senior Saudi government source has now confirmed the meeting to the Wall Street Journal, saying that that normalization with Israel and the question of Iranian regime aggression were discussed at Sunday’s secret meeting.

To avoid media detection, according to Israeli media, Netanyahu flew on a private plane belonging to Israeli businessman Udi Angel, which Netanyahu has used in the past for clandestine diplomatic trips arranged by the Mossad with Russian President Vladimir Putin and others. The plane left Israel at 7.30 pm on Sunday and returned after midnight this morning.

The meeting was brokered with the assistance of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (who has been visiting Israel) who also participated in yesterday’s meeting.

It took place in Neom, a new city on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, south of Israel. (The city is being built to try and showcase the Kingdom’s technological progress.)

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi were only informed about the meeting after it took place, for fear that someone in their offices might leak it. A source close to Gantz and Ashkenazi said they were not upset about not being told in advance, and “what was important for Israel and for peace throughout the middle east, is that the meeting took place.”

As I’ve mentioned before in these dispatches, many in the Saudi government including the crown prince and other senior figures, are eager to move ahead quickly with peace with Israel under the auspices of the arrangements brokered by Jared Kushner and Secretary Pompeo, but the 84-year-old King Salman is resisting any change in Saudi policy.

Without mentioning Netanyahu, Pompeo tweeted yesterday: “Constructive visit with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in NEOM today. The United States and Saudi Arabia have come a long way since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz Al Saud first laid the foundation for our ties 75 years ago.”



It is reported this morning that Joe Biden is likely to appoint Tony Blinken as his Secretary of State. Even though Blinken is much more likely than other contenders for the post (such as Susan Rice), to continue the broad outlines of the Trump Middle East policy and the Abraham Accords, sources in Saudi Arabia are concerned that a more hostile approach by the Biden administration may make it harder for them to conclude a deal with Israel and therefore they may now be considering accelerating the timetable for signing a peace treaty with Israel. (Blinken’s views on renegotiating a much tougher new Iran deal likely correspond more closely with the views of the Arab world and of Israel than those of Rice.)

The Trump administration has encouraged Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to follow the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan in establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.


Among other recent relevant dispatches:

* Profiled: Tony Blinken, who may forge Biden’s foreign policy
November 7, 2020
(I sent this an hour after Biden was declared the winner.)

* Mossad: timing of Saudi-Israel peace depends on who wins US election
October 28, 2020

* Saudi ex-intel chief slams Palestinian criticism of UAE deal
October 6, 2020

* Saudi: Palestinians have sabotaged peace negotiations for 6 decades (& Bahraini: Jews are indigenous to Israel)
September 9, 2020

* Bahrain (& then maybe even Saudi) next? Breaking news: UAE becomes third Arab country to make peace with Israel
August 13, 2020

* Alan Dershowitz and I also discuss Trump’s Mideast policies in this interview three days ago.


* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.