Israeli intelligence minister invites Saudi crown prince to visit
Yisrael Katz told Saudi news website Elaph on Wednesday that Israel would be happy to host the influential crown prince amid rumours of rapprochement between the two countries.
After the interview was published, Elaph, often described as Israel's media backdoor to the Arab world, decided against including the invitation in its article and had quickly edited it out, but not before other media outlets took notice.
Israeli Haaretz newspaper spoke to Katz, who confirmed that he had invited bin Salman.
"He said that he asks the king to invite (Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu officially to Riyadh, and he asks MbS, Mohammed bin Salman, the son, to come and visit Israel," Katz' spokesman Arye Shalicar said.
Katz made the call because "he wants regional peace - that's part of his three-layered programme," his spokesman said, referring to security and economic cooperation leading to eventual peace.
In the interview Katz hailed Saudi Arabia as the "leader of the Arab world" and said that the kingdom has a place in the Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.
Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have official relations but various reports have recently emerged of co-operation between the two countries, who share a common foe in Iran.
Despite Saudi King Salman warning US President Donald Trump against the controversial move to declare the capital of Israel as Jerusalem instead of Tel Aviv, domestically, they are trying to calm the extent in which Israel is criticised in Saudi media.
Saudi Arabia last week ordered media outlets in the kingdom to not focus "too much attention" on Washington's controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, sources have said.
The Saudi royal court sent a "severe warning" to bosses of newspapers, television and radio stations about the issue which has sparked protests across the Arab world, sources told The New Arab.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, they added that the directive ordered media to instead "take aim at Iran and other regional countries" in its coverage rather than focusing on Israel.
'Blow Lebanon to the Stone Age'
Also in the Elaph interview, Katz threatened to return Lebanon "to the Stone Age".
He urged the Arab world to unite against the "mutual Iranian threat" and suggested that should Israel go to war with Lebanon to curb Hizballah's influence, Israel would take its neighbour back to the "Stone Age".
"What happened in 2006 would be a picnic in nature compared to what we can do," Yisrael Katz said. "I recently remember that a Saudi minister said he would return Hizballah to the caves in the south, I say we will return Lebanon to the Stone Age."