Report: Netanyahu, MBS Discussed Iran, Normalization – Without Agreement

A combination picture shows Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. (Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters and Reuters/Ronen Zvulun/Pool)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed Iran and normalization during a visit by Netanyahu to Saudi Arabia on Sunday night, but no agreements were reached, a Saudi official told the Wall Street Journal.

Netanyahu met the Saudi crown prince in Saudi Arabia, Education Minister Yoav Galant said on Monday, the first publicly confirmed trip to the kingdom by an Israeli leader amid a diplomatic flurry prompted by regional fears of Iran.

Earlier, Army Radio and Kan Radio both reported that Netanyahu had secretly flown on Sunday to the Saudi Red Sea town of Neom for talks with Mohammed bin Salman and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

News of the meeting came a day after Netanyahu, in an apparent message to Joe Biden, said in a speech there should be no return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal abandoned by President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu’s office and the U.S. Embassy in Yerushalayim had no immediate comment on the media reports, but Galant, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet and Likud party, confirmed the Saudi meeting had taken place, describing it as an “amazing achievement.”

“The very fact the meeting happened, and was outed publicly, even if half-officially right now, is a matter of great importance,” Galant told Army Radio.

As Trump’s term winds down, Pompeo has been trying to coax Saudi Arabia, the Gulf powerhouse, to follow its neighbors, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in establishing formal diplomatic relations with Israel.

As well as wanting to contain Iran, Trump and Pompeo are also concerned about a possible review of U.S. policies in the region by the incoming Biden administration.

Biden has said he would rejoin the nuclear accord that world powers signed with Iran if it first resumed strict compliance with the deal, and would work with allies to strengthen its terms.

Netanyahu was joined on the trip by Mossad director Yossi Cohen, who has spearheaded discreet diplomatic outreach to Gulf Arab states.

Riyadh has so far declined to normalize ties with Israel. But since August it has allowed Israeli airliners to overfly Saudi territory to newly available Gulf destinations and Asia.