Israeli Tourism Minister Chaim Katz on Tuesday became the first Israeli Cabinet member to lead a public delegation to Saudi Arabia.
Katz arrived in Riyadh to take part in a conference of the United Nations World Tourism Organization and mark World Tourism Day, celebrated annually on Sept. 27.
“Tourism is a bridge between nations. Partnership in tourism issues has the potential to bring hearts together and economic prosperity,” he said in a statement released by his office. “I will work to advance cooperation, promote tourism and the foreign relations of Israel.”
Katz’s visit comes on the background of growing relations between Israel and the kingdom as the two work toward a normalization deal.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) said last week that peace with the Jewish state is “getting closer every day.”
On Sept. 20, U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu spoke openly on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly debate in New York about a coming agreement.
Earlier this month, an official Israeli delegation arrived for the first time in Saudi Arabia for a meeting of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
In July, a team of Israelis competed in Saudi Arabia in the annual FIFAe World Cup, which sees participants play the latest version of the popular soccer video game. This month, a delegation of Israeli athletes competed in the 2023 IWF World Weightlifting Championships in Riyadh.
Earlier Tuesday, a Saudi delegation arrived in Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas.
The delegation is headed by Saudi Ambassador to Jordan Nayef al-Sudairi, Riyadh’s first-ever non-resident envoy to the P.A. and consul general to Yerushalayim.
After presenting his credentials to Abbas, al-Sudairi referred to bin Salman’s recent statements, in which “he clearly indicated his great interest in the Palestinian issue and the Palestinian people,” according to the P.A.-controlled Wafa news agency.
Al-Sudairi, who is considered close to the royal family, also said that Saudi Arabia plans to open a consulate in the eastern part of Yerushalayim.
Last month, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said that Israel “won’t allow the opening of a diplomatic mission [to the P.A.] of any kind [in Yerushalayim].”
Because Saudi Arabia does not have a diplomatic mission in the Israeli capital, al-Sudairi’s appointment did not require approval from the Netanyahu government. JNS