Israel calls for Saudi Arabia ties and state visits

Intelligence minister Katz invites King Salman to send crown prince to Israel in order to establish mutual ties.

Israel''s Prime Minister Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Katz attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem
Katz, left, has extended the invitation to the Saudi king as well as the crown prince [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]

Israel’s intelligence and transportation minister has called on Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Riyadh to establish full diplomatic relations. 

Speaking at a conference in Herzliya on Thursday, Yisrael Katz also asked King Salman to send newly appointed crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to Tel Aviv after describing shared interest in countering rival Iran.

“I call upon Salman, the King of Saudi Arabia, to invite the prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, to visit Saudi Arabia,” Katz said at the annual Herzliya Conference, where Israeli leaders present national strategy initatives.

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“We saw what a wonderful host you can be … when President Trump was there. You can also send your heir, the new one, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He’s a dynamic person. He is an initiator. And he wants to break through.

“Exactly this way … they know who Iran is. They know we have to create an access vis-a-vis Iran. You can send him for a meeting in Israel and I promise you, he’s going to be a very welcome guest,” Katz said.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defence minister, also called for establishing “full diplomatic and economic relations” with Arab states.

In his speech at the conference, Lieberman said a peace deal must be reached with what he referred to as “moderate Arab Sunni countries” before a peace agreement could be made with the Palestinians.

“The only light at the end of the tunnel is a complete regional agreement,” Lieberman, who has previously advocated paying Palestinians to leave Palestine, said. “Full diplomatic and economic relations. Not under the table, but on the table.

“I saw research on what the result of a regional agreement and full economic relations would mean between Israel, the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. This would mean an additional revenue of $45bn for Israel. That’s the potential. We have to clearly say what our priorities are.”

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Speaking to Al Jazeera from Ramallah, Mustafa Barghouti, who heads the Palestinian National Initiative, said it was unlikely that Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries would follow suit.

“I don’t think Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries will accept to normalise relations with Israel,” Barghouti said.

“This is a very sensitive issue. Jerusalem is a very sensitive issue. How could Saudi Arabia have normal relations with Israel, while it is occupying the [third] most important religious place [to Muslims] – the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem?

“If normal relations prevail between Israel and Arab states without solving the Palestinian problem, Israel thinks the world will forget about the Palestinian issue,” he added.

Reporting from Herzliya, Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett acknowledged that the idea of Arab countries establishing relations with Israel would be difficult.

“The idea that these countries would so openly cooperate with Israel would be pretty difficult for them to sell to their own public and more broadly,” Fawcett said.

“However it does seem [Lieberman] wants to apply pressure in this direction,” he added. “We see from Lieberman’s perspective that he sees an opportunity to make the most of Trump’s recent visit, [the idea of] a peace deal with the Palestinians, and the recent diplomatic crisis in the GCC.”

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Source: Al Jazeera