Radical Islamist outfits around the world condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's secret flight to Neom to have discussions with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
While Islamic Jihad said the meeting was "treason", Yemen's Houthi Ansarullah said Riyadh was complicit in the Zionist project. Palestinian Hamas said the secret rendezvous was an "insult" to the Palestinian cause.
"Such a visit to a country, which claims to be custodian of the sacred sites of the Islamic Ummah will encourage the Zionist regime to continue its vicious aggressive policy toward the sacred land of Palestine," the Islamic Jihad said in a statement.
'More Israeli Aggression Against Palestine'
The Palestinian outfit said this meeting will herald more Israeli aggression against the Palestinian nation, the Islamic Ummah and Islam's sacred sites, Iran's Press TV reported.
"Netanyahu visited Saudi Arabia as part of preparations for full normalization [with the kingdom], after Saudi officials welcomed such steps by other regional states. The countries that attack Yemen and besiege its people, namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, tend to become fully, formally and publicly involved in the Zionist project," Yemen's Houthi Ansarullah movement said.
The Hamas movement also denounced the meeting and called it a dangerous development. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri asked Saudi authorities to clarify what happened because this development "represents an insult to the nation and the squandering of Palestinian rights."
Secret Rendezvous in Neom
On Monday, Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met bin Salman in Saudi Arabia's futuristic Neom city on Sunday. The meeting was also attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Saudi Arabia has long considered Israel an arch foe given the sensibilities surrounding the Palestinian cause. However, the equations have changed over the years and there have been reports of secret parleys between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.
Saudi Arabia vehemently denied the meeting ever took place even as highly placed sources inside Israel's government endorsed the reports. Analysts think that there may have been a pact of secrecy between Saudi Arabia and Israel, but this has been obviously breached, for a purpose.
Pitfalls in Saudi Normalization with Israel
Ever since the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel, there has been speculation that Saudi Arabia would follow suit. It's harder, though, for Riyadh to normalize with Israel Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holy mosques of the Muslims and an unofficial leader of the Islamic cause in the Middle East.
Establishing normal relations with the Jewish state will lead to domestic resentment, and the current Saudi royal establishment will be seen as having betrayed the Palestinians. Besides, Saudi Arabia has to be wary of the upper hand Iran would get in the Muslim world if Riyadh is seen to be getting comfortable with the Jewish state.
Nonetheless, observers think Saudi Arabia is cozying up to Israel for multiple reasons. Sunday's meeting between Netanyahu and the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia will go a long way in the eventual normalization of ties between the countries. If Saudi Arabia's closest allies in the region can sign the Abraham Accords endorsed by US President Donald Trump, Riyadh would do so as well, albeit at a later point in time.
Top Secret Mission
The Jerusalem Post reported that the meeting was top secret business and was planned for months. Even Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz or Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi were not informed about it.
After Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud denied the meeting took place, Israel's Education Minister Yoav Galant confirmed the face-to-face meeting took place. "The very fact the meeting happened and was outed publicly, even if half officially right now, is a matter of great importance," he told Israel's Army Radio, according to the Guardian.
Alongside Netanyahu, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, Israel's National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and Netanyahu's Military Secretary Avi Bluth also attended the meeting with bin Salman and Mike Pompeo. According to the JPost, Israeli leaders spent as many as five hours in the Saudi mega city. The Israeli prime minister flew into Saudi Arabia in a private plane owned by businessman Udi Angel.
Flight data company FlightRadar24.com confirmed that a Gulfstream IV private jet took off after 1740 GMT from Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on Sunday. It landed at Neom just after 1830 GMT. The Gulfstream took off from Neom around 2150 GMT.