Israel 'congratulates' Saudi Arabia on Founding Day, amid 'informal normalisation' talks

Israel 'congratulates' Saudi Arabia on Founding Day, amid 'informal normalisation' talks
An official Israel Twitter account "congratulated" Saudi Arabia on its Founding Day holidaon Tuesday, amid increasing speculations regarding normalisation between the two countries.
3 min read
23 February, 2023
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed for normalisation with Saudi Arabia [Getty]

Israel "congratulated" Saudi Arabia on the occasion of its Founding Day on Tuesday, amid increasing speculation regarding normalisation between the two countries.

The official Arabic-language Twitter account of Israel posted a statement which read: "We extend our sincere congratulations and blessings to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the king, the government and people on the anniversary of the Saudi state’s founding", accompanied by an emoji of the Gulf kingdom’s national flag.

“May it return to you with goodness and blessings in light of security, safety ad prosperity, with our wishes for peace, cooperation and good neighbourliness to serve the people of the region," they added.

Founding Day in the Gulf kingdom is held every year on February 22, in commemoration of the founding of the first Saudi state in 1727.

The Israeli statement comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that normalisation with Saudi Arabia is "possible", while speaking at the Hartog National Security Conference on Tuesday, in the capital Tel Aviv.

"I think we can have a quantum leap if the Saudi leadership decides that it wants to be formally part of this. Informally, they're part of this," he said.

Netanyahu claimed that establishing ties with Riyadh would "end the Arab-Israeli conflict", thus "expanding a circle of peace" in the region, and would provide a "shield" against supposed threats from Iran.

The Palestinian Authority, however, condemned the Israeli premier’s comments, saying that peace in the region can only be achieved through "granting rights to Palestinian people", the Turkish Anadolu news agency reported.

Saudi Arabia did not respond to the Israeli leadership’s comments or its statement on Founding Day, according to Arabi21.

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Speculations that Riyadh may join a number of Arab states who have normalised ties with Israel increased in the aftermath of Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power as Prime Minister of Israel, in November 2022.

Last December, Netanyahu told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya channel that normalisation "would change our region in ways that are unimaginable".

Bloomberg reported last week that both countries were "stepping up" security and military talks in meetings which took place ahead of the US-Gulf Cooperation Council Working Group gathering on defence and security, in Riyadh, according to sources who wished to remain anonymous.

Saudi Arabia, however, has said that it "rules out" normalisation with Israel until a Palestinian state is established. However certain measures, such as the opening up of Saudi airspace for Israeli aircraft headed to Asia, have taken place in recent years.

Other Arab states - namely Bahrain, the UAE, Sudan and Morocco - established diplomatic ties with Israel through the US-brokered Abraham Accords, beginning in 2020.

The countries' normalisation with Israel was lambasted by Palestinians, who described the move as "a betrayal" of their cause as Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and besiege the Gaza Strip.