Saudi Arabia mulls inviting Israeli official ahead of Biden visit, official says

Riyadh considers joint meeting either during or after Biden's visit, depending on success of U.S. leader's Mideast trip; Jerusalem believes summit will serve opportunity to secure 'small-medium normalization measures' with Gulf kingdom

Smadar Perry|
A senior Saudi official said on Thursday that the Gulf kingdom is considering inviting an Israeli official during or after U.S. President Joe Biden's upcoming visit to the region.
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  • The move is contingent upon the success of Biden's trip to the Middle East, especially the results of his visit to Riyadh, said the official who serves as a political advisor to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
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    מוחמד בן סלמאן  ג 'ו ביידן
    מוחמד בן סלמאן  ג 'ו ביידן
    U.S. President Joe Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
    (Photo: AP, AFP)
    The option of inviting a senior Israeli figure to join Biden's visit to Saudi Arabia was discussed before as part of the American-Saudi dialogue, but the chances of this scenario becoming reality seemed very slim.
    However, Riyadh, Washington, and Jerusalem are now examining the option - each side and its own considerations.
    The move could help the White House divert attention from Biden who does not enjoy very much popularity in Riyadh and criticism about the U.S. leader's U-turn on Saudi human rights violations amid the global energy crisis.
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    דגלי ישראל וסעודיה
    דגלי ישראל וסעודיה
    The flags of Israel and Saudi Arabia
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    Meanwhile, Jerusalem would certainly be pleased if an Israeli official arrived openly on Saudi soil. The meeting would also present an opportunity for Israeli representatives to meet leaders of other Arab states scheduled to attend the summit, including countries with which Jerusalem does not have open diplomatic relations such as Kuwait and Oman.
    Israeli officials believe this will serve as window of opportunity to secure "small-medium normalization measures" with Riyadh, such as allowing Israeli commercial flights to fly through Saudi airspace and allowing Israeli Muslim pilgrims to fly to Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca for the Hajj.
    In any case, neither party expects a full-fledged normalization agreement and official diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and Riyadh in the near future.
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