Unnamed Israeli official reportedly visits Saudi Arabia, further fuelling normalisation rumours
An unnamed senior Israeli official has visited Saudi Arabia ‘very recently’, Israeli news outlet Channel 12 reported, in the latest of a series of reported meetings that indicate ties between Riyadh and Tel Aviv are warming.
The official was welcomed at an unspecified Saudi palace for talks on security cooperation and energy security, Channel 12 said.
The meeting was reported widely across Israeli media, although no source was given.
Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, but its Gulf allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed the US-brokered Abraham Accords to normalise ties with Tel Aviv in 2020.
Riyadh supported the accords, but at that time stated it would only normalise relations with Israel if there was ‘significant progress’ towards peace between Israel and Palestine.
In the two years since the accords were signed, Israel has shown no sign of relenting its violent attacks on Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israeli police repeatedly raided the sacred Al-Aqsa complex in occupied East Jerusalem before and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan this year, injuring and arresting scores of Palestinians.
On 11 May, Israeli forces shot dead veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and later attacked her funeral, arresting dozens of people.
US goes bridge-building
Senior figures in the Biden administration have made diplomatic manoeuvres in the Middle East in an attempt to foster increased cooperation between their key allies in the region.
Two US officials visited Saudi Arabia this week for talks that included global energy supplies, relations with common adversary Iran, and other regional issues, the White House said on Thursday.
Meeting the high-ranking Saudi officials in Riyadh were Brett McGurk, Biden's top White House advisor on the Middle East, and Amos Hochstein, the State Department's energy envoy.
The US is also reportedly brokering a secret deal to transfer two Red Sea islands that lie close to the Israeli port of Eilat back into Saudi hands.
Such a move would increase strategic cooperation between the two regional players, and is seen by some as a prelude to more extensive normalisation.