PA officials hope Saudi Arabia won't establish ties with Israel

PA officials say normalization of ties with Israel is "an escape from the truth".

Elad Benari ,

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
Flash 90

Palestinian Arab officials said on Monday they were not surprised to hear of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s secret visit to Saudi Arabia, where he reportedly met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, JPost reports.

At the same time, the officials expressed hope that Riyadh would not establish relations with Israel.

PA cabinet leader Mohammad Shtayyeh, in opening remarks during the weekly meeting of the PA cabinet, did not comment directly on reports about the secret meeting but warned that “attempts to portray normalization between Israel and the Arab countries as a substitute for peace with the Palestinians is an escape from the truth.”

Another senior PA official quoted by JPost said that while the meeting came as no surprise, the leadership hoped the visit will not mean a change in Saudi conditions for normalization with Israel.

“We are aware that the Saudis supported the decisions by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize their relations with Israel,” the official said. “We also believe that the meeting between Netanyahu and bin Salman was not the first of its kind. But we hope that Saudi Arabia is not going to join the normalization train. The Saudis have made it clear that they would not establish relations with Israel until the Palestinian issue is resolved.”

Earlier on Monday it was reported that Netanyahu and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen flew to Saudi Arabia on Sunday night onboard a private aircraft owned by Israeli businessman Ehud Angel.

Joined by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the three met with the Saudi Crown Prince in Neom, Saudi Arabia for clandestine talks.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan denied that Netanyahu visited the kingdom, writing on Twitter, “I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by Secretary Pompeo. No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi.”

Meanwhile, an unnamed senior Saudi official told The Wall Street Journal that Netanyahu and the Saudi Crown Prince discussed the possibility of normalizing relations between their two countries but did not reach a substantial agreement.

Saudi officials have repeatedly stressed that while the country backs full normalization with Israel, a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority that results in a Palestinian state must come first.