Did a Saudi prince just visit Israel?
Al-Ekhbariya via AP
A Saudi prince conducted a discreet visit to Israel earlier this week to discuss regional peace initiatives, Israel's public broadcaster reported on Thursday, at around the same time as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded what he called strong ties with Arab states.
The name or specific position of the royal was not disclosed, and the Israeli prime minister's office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the report.
Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and is party to an Arab League boycott on trade with the Jewish state.
The kingdom presented a peace plan, endorsed by the Arab League, as far back as 2002.
While Israel has major objections to parts of the initiative, purportedly warming ties between the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sunni states in the region have reportedly opened the door to compromise on the plan.
Over the last two years, senior Israeli government figures, including the prime minister, said that several Arab states who outwardly maintain a hostile attitude toward Israel have expressed interest in co-operation.
The change in posture was driven by soaring tensions between powerful Sunni states and Iran, the world's preeminent Shiite power. Both the Sunni world and Israel vehemently opposed the 2015 nuclear deal that saw many sanctions on Iran eased in exchange for a drastic curtailing of their nuclear program.
On Wednesday, Benjamin Netanyahu said that "what actually happens [now] with the bloc of Arab states has not happened in our history, even when we signed agreements."
"Cooperation in various ways at different levels still does not cross the threshold of making public, but what is happening below the public eye is much larger than any other period in the history of Israel," he said.
For years Israeli companies have exported goods to the Arab world, usually via third countries in order to keep the value of deals under wraps.
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