01:18 GMT20 January 2021
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    Earlier this month, the Israeli prime minister hinted that "many more" Arab countries may sign normalisation agreements with the Jewish state, a few months after Tel Aviv concluded the Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has revealed that he recently visited an array of Arab countries, The Times of Israel cited leaks from a meeting with his party Likud as saying on Saturday.

    "I recently visited other countries and like I couldn't say then about the [United Arab] Emirates (UAE), I can't specify right now", Netanyahu said.

    The remarks came a few days after the news outlet Walla reported the prime minister's visit to the UAE, part of Netanyahu's planned Gulf tour, had been postponed again.

    The visit, due to take place in late December, was rescheduled amid an ongoing political standoff in Israel, where snap national elections were announced after the parliament was dissolved over a budget dispute.

    Netanyahu's Saturday statement followed the prime minister hinting last week that more countries might be establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.

    "You can see the Arab countries, some have already come forward, others are coming forward […] I think we should continue that policy and we're going to see many, many more countries, a lot more than people expect and perhaps a lot sooner than people expect [to do the same]", he said during a meeting with US envoy to the UN Kelly Craft.

    This was preceded by Israeli public radio station Kan reporting in late November that Netanyahu had secretly visited Saudi Arabia, where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

    Israeli Education Minister Yoav Gallant confirmed the report at the time, pointing out that "the very fact the meeting happened, and was outed publicly, even if half-officially right now, is a matter of great importance". Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, however, denied the reports about Netanyahu's visit to the Kingdom.

    Israel Inks Normalisation Deals With UAE, Bahrain

    The reported developments followed Bahrain and the UAE officially establishing diplomatic ties with Israel by signing the Abraham Accords on 15 September in Washington, because the US administration brokered the historic deal.

    The two countries expressed readiness to cooperate with the Jewish state in a number of fields, ranging from culture to regional security, in exchange for Tel Aviv putting its plans to extend sovereignty over parts of the West Bank on hold.

    A month later, Sudan agreed to normalise relations with Israel. Morocco then became the latest addition to the list of Arab states to recognise Israel, announcing the move in December.

    President Donald Trump, for his part, told reporters in September that he believed Saudi Arabia would be the next country to follow the UAE and Bahrain. Riyadh has neither criticised nor supported the Abraham Accords, which was strongly opposed by Palestinian leaders.

    Saudi Arabia was earlier behind an initiative that Arab states should only normalise ties with Israel after Tel Aviv agrees to a two-state solution with the Palestinians and returns to its pre-1967 borders.

    In 2018, the Israeli TV station Hadashot cited sources as saying that Netanyahu was interested in сoncluding formal ties between the Jewish state and Saudi Arabia. He earlier admitted to Israel "having contacts" with Saudi Arabia that "have been kept in general secret".


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