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Israel: Netanyahu thanks Saudi crown prince for role in normalisation deals

The former prime minister and now opposition leader says he would sign a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia if re-elected in November
Israeli former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before the Knesset (parliament), in Jerusalem on June 30, 2022 (AFP)

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's role in negotiating normalisation agreements between Israel and Arab states and promised "peace" with Saudi Arabia if he returns to office.

Netanyahu, who was ousted as prime minister last year, has been looking to make a comeback and has touted his role in warming relations with the Arab world in the run-up to another round of elections in November.

'I would like to extend my appreciation to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for his contribution to the four peace agreements we had forged'

- Benjamin Netanyahu

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Netanyahu hailed the upcoming regional trip by US President Joe Biden, which will see him travel by direct flight between Israel and Saudi Arabia, as evidence of his achievements in the Middle East.

"This is an important visit because from here, the president will fly to Saudi Arabia," he said.

"A direct flight is an expression of the massive change we have brought to the Middle East. Our policy has truly created a new Mideast."

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During his tenure, Netanyahu signed the Abraham Accords - overseen by then US President Donald Trump - which normalised relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

"I would like to extend my appreciation to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for his contribution to the four peace agreements we had forged," Netanyahu told the press.

"I intend to sign a comprehensive peace treaty with Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations...our next peace agreements will bring us closer to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict."

Secret diplomacy

Although Saudi Arabia does not officially recognised Israel, ties between the two countries have been warming in recent years and diplomacy has frequently been conducted in secret.

In November 2020, three months after the signing of the Abraham Accords, Netanyahu reportedly secretly flew to Saudi Arabia to meet MBS and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

What does the not-so-secret meeting between Netanyahu and MBS mean?
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Sources told Haaretz that the overnight meeting took place in Neom, a flagship megaproject being built on the Red Sea, and that Mossad chief Yossi Cohen was also in attendance.

The trip marked the first visit by an Israeli leader to Saudi Arabia.

Biden is set to visit the region next week, partly to push the Saudis for increased oil production in an attempt to control spiralling fuel costs and inflation in the US.

However, campaigners and rights groups have condemned his decision to visit Saudi Arabia after Biden was fiercely critical of the kingdom prior to his election as president, during which time he called for the country to be made a "pariah" state and said there was “little social redeeming value in the present government".

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