Saudi Crown Prince cancels secret meeting with Israeli PM Netanyahu after it was leaked

A date for the visit had been agreed and a protocol team had already been dispatched.

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L)

Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), pulled out of a planned visit to Washington DC next week to meet the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu after he feared that the news had leaked and that his presence in the US capital would become a “nightmare”.

According to Middle East Eye, It had not yet been agreed whether the meeting between the crown prince and Netanyahu would have been recorded and then announced or conducted live in front of the cameras.

But those pushing for it to happen, which included US President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, see the prospect of a handshake between the men as a way to relaunch MBS’s image as a young Arab peacemaker and shore up regional support for the US-brokered deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

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[Saudi Kingdom Council/Anadolu Agency]
Details as per Middle East Eye show that the crown prince would have stopped short of announcing the recognition of Israel, but the meeting itself would have been the strongest hint that the kingdom was also on a path towards normalizing relations.

A date for the visit had been agreed and a protocol team had already been dispatched.

He would have arrived on 31 August after the end of the Republican Convention. It would have been his first visit to the US since March 2018 when he stayed for around three weeks in a big PR exercise.

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Saudi Prince MBS with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in Riyadh. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Not wanting to stay either in the Saudi embassy or the ambassador’s residence, known locations which would have attracted demonstrations, four houses had been purchased at a secret location just for his stay, Middle East Eye was told.

The plan fell apart on Saturday when the crown prince received reports that the visit had been leaked. His bottom-line condition with the White House was that the visit should go ahead in total secrecy and that his presence in the capital would only be known once the event itself was taking place.

Saudi blogger Mohammed Saud during his sponsored visit to Israel. (Twitter)

Trump and Kushner had desperately wanted this visit to take place. Within hours of its cancellation, Trump had dispatched both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kushner to the Middle East to drum up regional support for the UAE’s pact with Israel.

A day before the UAE canceled a planned meeting of the US Ambassador Kelly Craft and her Israeli counterpart on Friday over Netanyahu’s veto over the planned sale of F-35 fighters to Abu Dhabi.

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