Israeli Tourism Minister Haim Katz landed in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to attend a UN tourism event, marking the first-ever public visit to the kingdom by an Israeli minister.
This visit is seen as a significant step in fostering relations between the two nations, which have historically been strained.
“Tourism is a bridge between nations. Partnership in tourism issues has the potential to bring hearts together and economic prosperity,” Katz expressed in a statement, emphasizing the role of tourism in bridging gaps between different nations and cultures. He further committed to advancing cooperation, tourism, and the foreign relations of Israel.
A Platform for Cooperation
During his two-day visit, Katz will participate in an event organized by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), as reported by the Israeli public broadcaster KAN. This visit provides a platform for dialogue and cooperation in tourism and related sectors, potentially paving the way for improved relations and mutual understanding between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Strained Relations and Prospects for Normalization
Saudi Arabia and Israel do not currently have diplomatic relations, and Riyadh has maintained that any deal to normalize ties with Tel Aviv must advance efforts to establish a Palestinian state, a condition Israel has not accepted. However, recent months have witnessed intensified US efforts to broker a deal to normalize relations between the two countries.
Six Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, have established diplomatic ties with Israel. Saudi Arabia’s stance on establishing diplomatic relations with Israel is closely watched, given its influence in the region.
The historic visit by Israeli Tourism Minister Haim Katz to Saudi Arabia signifies a potential thaw in relations between the two nations. While there has been no comment from the Saudi authorities regarding the visit, the participation in a UN tourism event could be a stepping stone towards more substantial dialogue and cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia in the future. (AA)