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Israeli Foreign Minister Cohen says visit to Saudi Arabia ‘on the table’

Israel continues to develop strategic alliances in the region

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eli Cohen seen during a press conference, at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, on January 25, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, while visiting Azerbaijan this week, said that a trip to Saudi Arabia is on the table. 

In an interview with Israel’s Army Radio, Cohen was asked about a possible visit to Saudi Arabia. He responded, “This [visit to Saudi Arabia] is on the table. There’s no date.” 

According to Cohen, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel during his visit with U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. The prime minister apparently said normalization with Saudi Arabia would be a “giant leap” towards ending the Israeli-Arab conflict. 

“We want normalization and peace with Saudi Arabia. We view that as perhaps a giant leap towards ending the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Netanyahu told Graham. “This agreement could have monumental consequences, historic consequences both for Israel, for Saudi Arabia, for the region and for the world.”

Cohen stated that Israel is not Saudi Arabia’s enemy. 

“The enemy of Saudi Arabia is certainly not Israel. Its enemy is Iran,” he said. 

Israel’s coalition government has been open about its desire to establish diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, even before coming to power. Israel and Saudi Arabia have had multiple discussions at lower levels, including under the current government, but have not yet formalized diplomatic ties. 

Recently, many have questioned whether the recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran has derailed the diplomatic process between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Yet, Cohen rejected this argument.

“It is precisely this thing that can lead to a balancing act of [Saudi Arabia] moving closer to Israel,” he said.

On Monday, Cohen referenced China’s role in the rapprochement and its possible role in helping to establish an arrangement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. 

“I spoke with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, about the danger we see in the Iranian nuclear program, a danger that is shared by many countries in the region, including countries that have diplomatic relations with Iran,” Cohen said in a statement. 

In contrast, U.S. allies have warned that the door for normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia could soon close. 

Israel has continued to develop its relations with various Muslim countries, including Shia Muslim countries like Azerbaijan. Cohen also said an additional Arab nation is planning to join the Abraham Accords this year, but did not provide details. 

Cohen’s visit to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, both of which border Iran, has widely been seen as a strategy to gain support for a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear sites. With Iranian aggression towards Israel continuing, these strategic partnerships take on even greater significance. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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