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Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince talk peace

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken by phone with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss normalization between the two countries, officials said Monday.

The talks come amid an intensive diplomatic push to normalize ties by the end of the year.

The phone diplomacy, which was first reported by Israel’s Channel 12, was carried out with the coordination of Bahraini interlocutors, even though Israel prefers U.S. mediation efforts.

According to the television report, the Saudis presented a list of demands of Israel in return for normalization including handing certain powers in Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority security services at the expense of the Israeli Defense Forces, and giving the Palestinians security control over the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount and at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The Israeli government is highly unlikely to approve these far-reaching steps.

Prince Mohammed, commonly known as MBS, turned down a proposal by Netanyahu to meet in person, the officials said.

Israeli officials said that complex negotiations will continue over the next weeks, after which it will become clear whether a deal is attainable.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has also been in phone contact with the Saudi leader.

The normalization talks come as an agreement to allow direct flights between Israel and Saudi Arabia for Muslims undertaking the pilgrimage to Mecca is expected to be announced next month.

Israel has issued a formal request for the flights and is awaiting the Saudi response, Cohen said earlier in May.

Israel’s top diplomat said this weekend that normalization with Saudi Arabia could happen within six months.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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