Netanyahu made a secret trip to Saudi Arabia, met MBS, Israeli media say

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly visited Saudi Arabia on Sunday and met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and visited US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo there, Israel’s Kan radio and ArmyRadio said on Monday.

The broadcaster quoted unnamed Israeli officials as saying that Netanyahu and Mossad spy chief Yossi Cohen “flew to Saudi Arabia yesterday and met Pompeo and MBS in the city of Neom”, referring to Prince Mohammed’s initials.

Several other Israeli media outlets reported similar information on Monday morning.

Netanyahu’s office and the US Embassy in Jerusalem had no immediate comment.

Private tracking from Israel to Saudi Arabia

Avi Scharf from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published flight tracking data which showed that a business plane had made a short trip from Tel Aviv to Neom, on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia, where Bin Salman and Pompeo had a planned meeting on Sunday.

A private jet from Gulfstream IV took off shortly after 1740 GMT from Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, according to information from the website FlightRadar24.com. The flight traveled south along the eastern edge of the Sinai Peninsula before turning towards Neom and landing shortly after 1830 GMT, according to reports. The flight started from Neom around 2150 GMT and followed the same route back to Tel Aviv.

Pompeo traveled with an American press pool on his journey through the entire Middle East, but left them at Neom Airport when he went on his visit with the Crown Prince.

Officially no ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia

Pompeo has sought to entice the Gulf power plant to follow its neighbors, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as they establish formal ties with Israel – an approach largely based on shared concerns for Iran.

Riyadh has so far refused to normalize ties with Israel, saying Palestinian targets for state power should be addressed.

But the Saudis have allowed Israeli planes to fly over their territory to recently accessible golf destinations and to Asia.

( Jowharwith AFP, AP and REUTERS)