Israeli minister reveals covert contacts with Saudi Arabia
JERUSALEM/RIYADH – Reuters
An Israeli cabinet minister said on Nov. 19 that Israel has had covert contacts with Saudi Arabia amid common concerns over Iran, a first disclosure by a senior official from either country of long-rumored secret dealings.
The Saudi government had no immediate response to Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz's remarks. A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also did not respond immediately to a request to comment.
Both Saudi Arabia and Israel view Iran as a main threat to the Middle East and increased tension between Tehran and Riyadh has fueled speculation that shared interests may push Saudi Arabia and Israel to work together.
Saudi Arabia maintains that any relations with Israel hinge on Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war, territory Palestinians seek for a future state.
U.S. President Donald Trump's peace envoys, seeking an Israeli-Palestinian agreement with regional support, have visited Saudi Arabia several times since he took office.
In an interview on Army Radio, Steinitz, a member of Netanyahu's security cabinet, did not characterize the contacts or give details when asked why Israel was "hiding its ties" with Saudi Arabia.
He replied: "We have ties that are indeed partly covert with many Muslim and Arab countries, and usually (we are) the party that is not ashamed.
"It's the other side that is interested in keeping the ties quiet. With us, usually, there is no problem, but we respect the other side's wish, when ties are developing, whether it's with Saudi Arabia or with other Arab countries or other Muslim countries, and there is much more ... (but) we keep it secret."