Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (File Photo, Image credit: The Indian Express)

Netanyahu’s 200-minute trip to Saudi Arabia likely to change Middle East scenario

In a move which is likely to have a major ramification in West Asia, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday evening secretly landed in the Saudi Red Sea resort of Neom where he met Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and visiting US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. The latter was in Israel last week where he became the first US Secretary of State to pay a visit to the Jewish settlements of West Bank and Golan Heights, both of which were occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War in June 1967. Netanyahu, in his 200-minute (18:30 GMT to 21:50 GMT) long stay, was accompanied by the Mossad chief Yossi Cohen.

This significant development followed the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Jewish state and UAE and also with Bahrain and Sudan a few weeks back.

As the trip has come at a time when President Donald Trump is on his way out and Joe Biden is to take office on January 20, Middle East watchers are interpreting it in different ways. If any breakthrough is made whether the credit would actually go to Trump or the coming Biden administration?

Saudis are no doubt under pressure to establish diplomatic relationship with Israel and thus become a part of the larger anti-Iran coalition.

Palestinians will certainly not like the idea. It is keeping this in mind that a day earlier Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud called for the establishment of a Palestinian state though he emphasized that his country has supported the normalization of ties with Israel.

In Israel the clandestine visit by Netanyahu is likely to have an impact on the coalition government as the partners in the government were surprised on not being taken into confidence by the Prime Minister.

The Jewish state had three elections in a year– between April 2019 and early this year.

The establishment of ties between Israel and three Arab states did not cause much flutter because UAE, Bahrain and Sudan do not have much bigger say in the Muslim world. But any future move by Saudi Arabia in this direction may give Iran a further chance to consolidate its position in the Islamic world. Tehran is definitely alarmed not only with the visit of Netanyahu but also of his intelligence chief Cohen. The visit was kept so secret that it could be known only on Monday morning. This was the first meeting between Netanyahu and Mohammad Bin Salman, the de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, which the world came to know.

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