Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to formalize ties with Saudi Arabia and hopes to make public bilateral relations in the coming months.
A report on Israeli channel Hadashot TV on Saturday said the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency Yossi Cohen and the United States were involved in diplomatic efforts to formalize ties, which could be made public before Israel’s election next year.
A senior Israeli diplomatic source told Hadashot TV that Israel was conducting extensive talks with Arab states based on a mutual interest in countering Iran’s influence in the region.
Netanyahu’s office has not commented on the report.
Israel has recently actively pursued rapprochement with a number of countries in the region and in Muslim-majority parts of Africa, including a surprise visit to Oman in October by Netanyahu.
The visit was followed by a high-profile tour by senior Israeli ministers to the UAE and Oman, while last month Bahrain invited Israel’s economy minister to a conference in the country, due to take place next year.
In the latest indication of warming ties, Chad President Idriss Deby visited Israel in November and met with Netanyahu, while the Israeli prime minister expected to make a return visit soon.
Gulf states have held clandestine talks with Israel for decades, going back to at least the early 1980s.
Arab leaders have not, however, historically publicized talks over fears of a public backlash over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Broader policy alignment, primarily on the need to contain Iran, have emboldened both sides to now make those talks public, sparking Palestinian fears of public normalization.
Israel currently has full diplomatic relations with only two Arab states � Egypt and Jordan.
Palestinian officials have watched in alarm as Israel continues to build closer relations with Arab and Muslim states and have reportedly sought emergency sessions of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Source: Palestine Chronicle