Alwaght- On Monday, Israeli media sources said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman along with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Kan Radio and Army Radio, two official outlets, have reported the meeting.
A Reuters report held that Netanyahu secretly visited Saudi Arabia on Saturday and met with the de facto leader in the kingdom.
The report said that Pompeo and Yossi Cohen, the head of the Israeli spying apparatus, Mossad, also were at the meeting.
Israeli Walla news website held that the meeting took place in the under-development Neom city on the sidelines of the virtual Group of 20 (G20) meeting hosted by the Arab kingdom.
Walla noted that Netanyahu and Cohen secretly flew to Saudi Arabia aboard a private jet of the Israeli businessman Yudi Engel who was flying to Saudi Arabia to take part in the summit.
Less than 24 hours later, the Saudi foreign minister denied a lot of media reports about the secret visit to Saudi Arabia. Faisal bin Farhan in a Twitter post said that he has seen the reports about the “alleged” meeting between Netanyahu and bin Salman. “Such a meeting did not take place. Only Saudi and American officials were present,” he claimed.
Another part of the development was linked to Tel Aviv. Netanyahu has neither confirmed nor denied the reports, just saying that he has been silent about these issues for years and now he does not intend to break his silence. He continued that it has been years that he has been sparing no efforts to strengthen Israel and widen what he called the “circle of peace.”
Saadullah Zaree, an Iranian expert of regional affairs, talked to Alwaght and commented on the reasons behind denying the meeting between Netanyahu and bin Salman.
He said that the Saudi regime is quite afraid to see the word spreading across the Muslim world about the meeting because it knows that not only in the Muslim world but also inside Saudi Arabia there are highly negative views to the normalization with the Israeli regime.
Mr Zaree continued that the Muslim world knows very well that normalization with Tel Aviv is not in favor of the Muslims and only serves the Israeli interests. The Muslim public also knows that the governments taking steps towards a thaw in fact betray the Muslim world. A report published about two months ago by an Israeli ministry said that according to a poll in 10 Arab countries over 87 percent of the public were against normalizing the ties to the Israeli regime. The report added that the Muslims deem the UAE, which signed a thaw deal in mid-August with the Israeli regime, a treasonous state. The polls were conducted while at the time only the Emirates had normalized and Bahrain, which also took a similar step in mid-September, was yet to give publicity to its normalization. “It is important to hear these public negative feedbacks about the UAE from the Israeli media themselves,” he went on.
He commented on the negative view of the Muslim world to the normalization with Tel Aviv, adding that the Qatar-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in a massive poll in 24 Muslim countries including the Arab states found that the overall view to normalization was negative among the Muslims and they called the Emirati move a “treason” to the Muslim and Islam. “So, in these conditions, the Saudi rulers know that publicizing the secret relations with the Israelis can unleash to them a storm of Muslim anger.
Mr Zaree was asked about the Saudi approach to normalization. He answered that the Saudis are, in fact, the managers of this normalization. In other words, it was Saudi Arabia that encouraged the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan towards normalization. But they are waiting to see the situation normal and the Muslim world’s angry reactions against the Arab-Israeli thaw wind down. That is the reason the Saudis immediately denied any reports of Netanyahu's visit to the kingdom.
Asked why the Saudis denied Netanyahu's visit, Mr Zaree said that generally the Saudis have their own way of dealing with important and sensitive regional news. They deny it after it goes public, even if the news is real in essence.
“To put it differently, he said, Riyadh first allows the news to be published and then denies it to assess the public and media reactions. They know that with the denial at least 50 percent of the obstacles and challenges will be removed and they can pave the way for their goal.”
Asked how the Saudis directed the normalization of three Arab countries with Tel Aviv, Mr Zaree held that with managing the normalization of Abu Dhabi, Manama, and Khartoum with Tel Aviv the Saudis want to on the one hand highlight their role in the regional developments and brag that the regional developments only happen with their green light and on the other hand demonstrate to the Trump administration that they are taking the initiative in the normalization case as the outgoing US administration keeps its last-minute pressures against them.
“Riyadh has a challenge. On the one hand it faces heavy White House pressures for normalization and on the other hand this job has internal obstacles and considerable opposition and the Saudis cannot simply normalize.”
He went on that by managing the project and encouraging the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan to normalize it can to a degree get rid of the Washington pressures for immediate normalization. And at the same time it considers the home challenges and hurdles it faces in this path.