Saudi Crown Prince MbS 'spoke twice' to Netanyahu but said 'no' to meeting: report

Saudi Crown Prince MbS 'spoke twice' to Netanyahu but said 'no' to meeting: report
Normalisation between Israel and Saudi Arabia was the main topic discussed between Netanyahu and MbS in phone calls in recent weeks
3 min read
23 May, 2023
Mohammed bin Salman (left) reportedly refused a request to meet with Netanyahu [Getty]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke twice over the phone in recent weeks, The Jerusalem Post quoted a diplomatic source as saying on Monday.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, whose country established ties with Israel in 2020, reportedly facilitated the calls between the two leaders.

Netanyahu and MbS allegedly spoke before and after last week's Arab League summit in the Saudi city of Jeddah, which Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad attended for the first time after a 12-year suspension.

The Israeli premier and Saudi strongman discussed the possibility of both their countries normalising ties, but no progress was made.

The Saudi crown prince reportedly rejected Netanyahu’s request to meet in person.

Israel is eager to establish relations with Saudi Arabia, which is unwilling to take such a move before Palestinian statehood becomes a reality. This policy appears to have been reaffirmed by MbS during an Arab League summit.

"The Palestinian issue was and remains the central issue for Arab countries, and it is at the top of the kingdom’s priorities," bin Salman said in Jeddah last week.

In its final statement, the summit affirmed that the Palestinian cause remained the central issue for Arab nations and a key factor for regional stability.

"We will not delay in providing assistance to the Palestinian people in recovering their lands, restoring their legitimate rights and establishing an independent state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital," bin Salman said.

Israel continues to illegally occupy East Jerusalem and the West Bank and besiege the Gaza Strip, denying Palestinians their right to self-determination. It has killed over 150 Palestinians in deadly raids this year. 

It has also refused to halt the expansion of its settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal under international law.

However, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told The Jerusalem Post last week that normalisation with Saudi Arabia was only a matter of time, saying that both countries "have the same interests".

The US has rallied for this too and aims to achieve Saudi-Israeli normalisation before the end of this year, reports have said.

In a related matter, Israel has tried to get Saudi approval for direct flights from Tel Aviv to Jeddah for Palestinian Muslim citizens living within Israel's 1948 borders to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia is yet to give the green light and has reportedly conditioned that Palestinian Muslims living in the West Bank and Gaza are also able to use these flights.

If this happens by late June, when the Hajj is scheduled to take place, Israel believes this could be the first step towards full normalisation.

Saudi Arabia has already allowed Israeli airliners to use its airspace to travel to the the UAE and Bahrain since 2020, a corridor that it and neighbour Oman have since expanded to include other destinations in Asia.