Aerial view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Aerial view of Riyadh, Saudi ArabiaiStock

Samer Haj-Yehia, chairman of Israel’s Bank Leumi, made a historic appearance at a Saudi investor forum on Thursday and hailed "amazing" opportunities in the kingdom, AFP reported.

Haj-Yehia, the Arab-Israeli chairman of Bank Leumi since 2019, spoke at the Future Investment Initiative, a three-day conference held in the Saudi capital and often referred to as "Davos in the Desert".

"The opportunities are amazing and the fintech industry in particular is on the rise," he was quoted as having said during a panel discussion.

"You see the economy is very healthy, unlike other economies around the world, and the prospects for the future are very positive," he added, highlighting strong access to capital in oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the young population's adoption of "very advanced mobile technology".

A statement from Bank Leumi described Haj-Yehia's appearance as "the first official public visit of a senior Israeli business official to the country".

After Thursday's panel, Haj-Yehia declined to answer journalists' questions about how his bank might overcome the current hurdles Israeli firms face to doing business in the Saudi market.

He also declined to answer questions about the logistics of his travel and the passport he used.

Haj-Yehia’s visit to Riyadh comes amid rampant speculation about future bilateral ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Israel has been for years rumored to have behind-the-scenes ties with Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis have vehemently denied those rumors.

Saudi Arabia announced in July that the Kingdom’s airspace will be opened for all air carriers, including Israeli ones.

US President Joe Biden, during a visit to Riyadh, later announced two agreements made with Saudi Arabia which are widely considered to be significant steps on the path toward normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabian officials have repeatedly said that a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital is a prerequisite for Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, last month welcomed Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s support for the two-state solution during his speech at the UN General Assembly, but also said it needs to be translated into actions.