A high-ranking Israeli delegation from an umbrella US Jewish group has visited Saudi Arabia this week, a sign of increasing warmness between Tel Aviv and Riyadh as the two sides look to forge closer informal ties and expedite normalization efforts.
Israel’s English-language broadsheet newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported on Friday that members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations visited Saudi Arabia this week, a move believed to be the first official visit to the kingdom by an American Jewish organization since the Oslo peace process in 1993.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency said the visit, which took place from Monday to Thursday, included meetings with senior Saudi officials as well as with Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Karim bin Abdulaziz al-Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League.
Issa is regarded as a close associate of Saudi Crown, Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The New York-based news agency said the focus of the talks between the Conference constituents and Saudi officials was on countering terrorism and the instability in the Middle East region.
The Conference’s leadership, executive vice president Malcolm Hoenlein, and CEO William Daroff, are expected to have been present during the visit.
Saudi Arabia has expanded secret ties with Israel under the crown prince, the son of King Salman, who is viewed by many as the Kingdom’s de facto ruler. The young prince has made it clear that he and the Israelis stand on the same front to counter Iran and its growing influence in the Middle East.
Back in 2018, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for a commercial flight to Israel with the start of a new Air India route between India and Israel, although El Al Israel Airlines might not use Saudi airspace for eastward flights.
Critics say Saudi Arabia’s flirtation with Israel would undermine global efforts to isolate Tel Aviv and affect the Palestinian cause in general. They say Riyadh has gone too far in its cooperation with the Israelis as a way of deterring Iran as an influential player in the region.
Israel has full diplomatic relations with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, but the latest reports suggest the regime is working behind the scenes to establish formal contacts with Persian Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
In another sign of warming ties between the regimes of Israel and Saudi Arabia, last month Tel Aviv officially allowed Israelis to travel to Saudi Arabia for the first time.