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Reports: Israeli PM Met Secretly With Saudi Crown Prince

Newser — Jenn Gidman

A secret rendezvous between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also in attendance, reportedly took place Sunday, Israeli sources say.

Axios reports that flight data showed a private jet leaving Tel Aviv Sunday evening, arriving in the Saudi city of Neom, then heading back to Israel after five or so hours.

A meeting during that same time frame between the crown prince and Pompeo had already been publicly announced. Saudi Arabia has already issued a denial on Netanyahu and bin Salman getting together.

"I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo," Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan tweeted Monday.

"No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi."

Netanyahu himself didn't exactly deny the meeting, though he didn't confirm it, either. "I never commented on those issues and I will not start now," he said Monday.

"I can just say that I am working on broadening the circle of peace and I hope it will grow." Meanwhile, Israeli Education Minister Yoav Gallant did (somewhat) confirm the meeting, deeming it an "incredible achievement," though he also called the report about it "half-official," per CNN.

Netanyahu's rivals suspect the prime minister wanted the story of the flight leaked for political purposes. The New York Times notes that, if this "confusing turn of events" is confirmed, it would be the first time such high-level Saudi and Israeli leaders have met.

Why this meeting may have taken place: Israel and Saudi Arabia's shared concern for the US returning to the 2015 Iran deal under a President Biden, per Axios.

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This article originally appeared on Newser: Reports: Israeli PM Met Secretly With Saudi Crown Prince