There has been growing speculation that both Riyadh and Jerusalem have been taking steps to normalize relations between the two countries. As part of these steps, a senior official from Israel had recently visited the country and had been hosted warmly at a palace in Riyadh. Reports on Friday indicated that various aspects of coordination and security had been the topic of discussion. Regional security interests had also been discussed, as the threats posed by Iran have aligned them in the last few years. While the meetings were reported, no information had been provided about the people who attended the said meetings.
It should be noted that the two countries do not have any formal relations, but this interaction comes as the United States is making efforts to ensure cooperation between the allies it has in this region. Joe Biden, the President of the US, is scheduled to visit the Middle East and he will be going to both Saudi Arabia and Israel. Earlier this week, Brett McGurk, the coordinator of the US National Security Council for the Middle East, and Amos Hochstein, the energy envoy of the US State Department, had also traveled to Saudi Arabia.
The purpose of the visit had been to put final touches on the agreement of the transfer of Sanafir and Tiran, the Red Sea islands, to Saudi Arabia from Egypt. Approval of Israel is needed for the deal because since it struck a peace deal with Egypt, the Jewish state has been deployed on these islands as a multinational observer. Therefore, reports indicate that both Israel and the US are making an effort to convince Riyadh into taking steps that can help normalize ties with Jerusalem. Some of the steps that have been proposed for this purpose include Israel being permitted to use Saudi airspace for all its flights, and not just ones limited to Gulf countries.
Another step is to start direct flights between Saudi Arabia and Israel, so Muslims will be able to travel to Mecca and Medina easily for pilgrimage. Reports show that the United States wants Saudi Arabia to make a more public gesture to show that they have normalized ties with Jerusalem. It seems that officials of the White House want to form a regional security axis that would bring together countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan and Egypt. It seems that McGurk is working on organizing a meeting between Muhammad Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and Biden.
He is also orchestrating an agreement between Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt before the US president visits the region in the coming month. However, only Biden’s visit to Israel has been officially confirmed by the administration, although reports indicate that the US officials do want to organize a meeting between the crown prince and Biden. The US has been making an effort to improve its relations with Saudi Arabia that had worsened during Biden’s election campaign after Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist for the Washington Post, had been killed in Istanbul at the Saudi consulate.