Israel’s foreign intelligence chief, Tamir Pardo (2011-2016), secretly visited Saudi Arabia in 2014, a private Israeli television channel 13 said on Tuesday.
With the exception of Egypt and Jordan, which have peace treaties with Israel, no other Arab country has direct relations with Tel Aviv.
The Israeli channel 13, quoting unidentified Western diplomats, said that by the end of 2013, following the signing of the interim nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers, there had been a major breakthrough in relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The Israeli channel explained that weeks after the signing of the interim nuclear agreement, and in early 2014, then the head of the Mossad Tamir Pardo visited Riyadh.
The Saudis, worried about the rapprochement between the United States and Iran, saw Israel as the strongest supporter against the Iranians, so the kingdom agreed, for the first time, to host a senior Israeli official (Mossad chief).
Both Israel and Iran consider the other state their primary enemy, while Saudi Arabia and Iran compete for influence in a number of Middle Eastern countries.
The channel also said that Israel rejected a Saudi initiative on Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and confrontation with Iranian influence following the recent Israeli war on Gaza in the summer of 2014.
The channel said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had met on this initiative with Bandar bin Sultan, president of the Saudi National Security Council, the envoy of the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, in a third (unspecified) state in September 2014.
Prior to that meeting, specifically on the last day of the war, the end of August 2014, Netanyahu met secretly with a special envoy (unnamed) from the Saudi monarch.
During the meeting, Saudi Arabia proposed a joint diplomatic initiative on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, a joint action strategy to counter Iranian influence and the reconstruction of Gaza.
Netanyahu then accepted the initiative and agreed with Bandar bin Sultan when they met that Netanyahu and the Saudi foreign minister would announce the initiative from the UN platform.
The channel added that representatives of Netanyahu met with aides to Bandar bin Sultan, to formulate the initiative, and presented an initial draft of the Israeli, approved by the Saudis in principle.
But the talks failed later between Israel and Saudi Arabia because of Netanyahu’s adherence to all the clauses of the Israeli draft, according to the channel, which did not clarify the items.
The channel said the Saudis felt “humiliation and anger” and that Bandar bin Sultan accused Netanyahu of “lying” after the talks failed.
The channel said Netanyahu’s refusal caused a one-year suspension of contacts with Saudi Arabia.
The channel explained that the communications renewed after a year, following the death of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz (2005 – 2015), and the receipt of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the reins of power in Saudi Arabia.
The official Israeli and Saudi sides didn’t immediately comment on what the Israeli channel 13 said.