Israeli news outlets first reported the meeting, and the education minister, Yoav Galant, discussed it in a radio interview Monday afternoon, although it was unclear whether he had direct knowledge of the meeting or was responding to the news reports. “The fact that the meeting took place and was made public — even if it was in only a semiofficial way — is something of great importance,” he said.
“This is something our ancestors dreamed about,” Mr. Galant added, highlighting what he called the “warm acceptance of Israel by the Sunni world.”
Israeli news outlets cited unidentified officials saying that the prime minister had flown with Yossi Cohen, the head of the Mossad spy agency, to Neom, a futuristic city Prince Mohammed is planning near the Red Sea coast. The reports did not detail the content of the meeting, but did note that the leaders discussed Iran, which both countries consider a major threat, in addition to the possible normalization of diplomatic relations.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have no formal diplomatic relations, and Prince Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said as recently as Saturday that the kingdom had long supported normalization but only after an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. The Saudis’ Arab Peace Initiative in 2002 offered Israel full normalization with the Arab world after the Palestinians achieved statehood.
But the kingdom’s tone when speaking about Israel has shifted in recent years, and rapidly in recent months.
Prince Mohammed, 35, a son of the Saudi monarch and the kingdom’s de facto ruler, has said that both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to their land and that Israel has overlapping economic and security interests with Arab states, specifically over their shared animosity toward Iran.
The Saudi news media has begun publishing articles about Israeli culture and politics, and last month a Saudi satellite channel aired extensive interviews with Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, who harshly criticized the Palestinian leadership.