San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition
Reports: Saudi prince met with Israeli leader
JERUSALEM — Israeli media reported Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Saudi Arabia for a clandestine meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which would mark the first known encounter between senior Israeli and Saudi officials.
The reported meeting was the latest move by the Trump administration to promote normalized ties between Israel and the broader Arab world and reflected the shared concern of all three nations about Iran.
The Israeli news site Walla, followed by other Hebrew-language media, cited an unnamed Israeli official as saying that Netanyahu and Yossi Cohen, head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, flew to the Saudi city of Neom on Sunday, where they met with the prince. The prince was there for talks with U. S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
People traveling with Pompeo declined comment. Netanyahu also declined to confirm the visit.
“I have not addressed such things for years and I will not start with that now. For years I have spared no effort to strengthen Israel and expand the circle of peace,” he said.
The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, denied on Twitter that the meeting took place.
“No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi,” he wrote. He did not elaborate.
While Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates have reached deals under the Trump administration to normalize ties with Israel, Saudi Arabia so far has remained out of reach. The Trump administration, as well as Netanyahu, wish to add the Saudis to that list before it leaves office in January.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV, citing an anonymous diplomatic official, said the Saudis told Netanyahu and Pompeo that they are not ready to normalize ties with Israel.