Israeli minister on Saudi trip hails 'blossoming ties'
An Israeli minister on Wednesday hailed his country's "blossoming ties" with Saudi Arabia during a visit to Riyadh amid ongoing US-brokered negotiations to establish formal relations.
Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi this week became the second Israeli cabinet member to formally visit the Saudi capital, heading a 14-member delegation to a United Nations conference.
"We greatly appreciate the tireless efforts of the leaders of Saudi Arabia, and our prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, for nurturing the blossoming ties between our nations," Karhi told the meeting of the Universal Postal Union, a specialised UN agency intended to facilitate international cooperation in the postal sector.
Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, has never recognised Israel and long insisted it would not do so without a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has been pushing for a normalisation deal.
Riyadh did not join the US-brokered Abraham Accords which saw its Gulf neighbours Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as well as Morocco establish formal ties with Israel in 2020.
Palestinians condemned the deals as a betrayal of their cause, pointing out that they rewarded Israel while it continued to occupy the West Bank and besiege the Gaza Strip.
Analysis: While Saudi demands for US weapons and nuclear energy are real, Riyadh is also likely testing the water to see what's possible in Washington as the costs of normalising ties with Israel still far outweigh the benefits— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) July 11, 2023
✍️ @GiorgioCafiero https://t.co/KD4AaKUNPO
Addressing the UN conference, however, Karhi called the Abraham Accords "monumentally transformative".
His visit comes days after the first official trip by an Israeli cabinet member, Tourism Minister Haim Katz, who last week attended a separate UN meeting in Saudi Arabia. Katz did not make any public remarks.
The White House said last week Saudi and Israeli negotiators were moving towards the outline of a deal.
Riyadh is bargaining hard for security guarantees from Washington as well as assistance with a civilian nuclear programme that would have uranium enrichment capacity.
The Palestinians have warned that they must be taken into account in any deal, and it is unclear what concessions Israel might be willing to make.
During his trip to Riyadh, Karhi also toured a 500-year-old Torah scroll on display at an annual book fair.
Karhi, wearing a Jewish kippah and white button-down shirt, was seen in a short video clip shared by his office reading from the religious scroll a description of the weeklong Sukkot holiday, or Feast of Tabernacles, which began on Friday.
Separate clips show Karhi praying in Riyadh and attending what his office described as a belated bar mitzvah - a Jewish rite of passage usually celebrated at age 13 - for a 70-year-old man.
Watch: Israeli occupation Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi performs Talmudic rituals and Sukkot prayers during a visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) October 3, 2023
His visit comes amid US-brokered normalization talks between ‘Israel’ and the Gulf Kingdom. pic.twitter.com/1lSIGc2pIb