First, the Israeli minister leads the Saudi Arabian official delegation.


Tourism Minister Haim Katz arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to attend a United Nations conference, becoming the first Israeli minister to lead a delegation to the kingdom, according to his office.

Katz is on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia as part of a United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) program to mark World Tourism Day on September 27.

Tourism is a bridge between nations, Katz said in a statement. “Cooperation in the tourism sector has the potential to connect hearts and generate economic growth.”

He said that I will work to advance cooperation, tourism and Israel’s foreign relations.

Katz’s visit comes at a time when Israel and Saudi Arabia appear to be moving closer to a normalization agreement.

US President Joe Biden’s administration is actively working to mediate between Riyadh and Jerusalem for normalization between the two countries. As part of the framework, Saudi Arabia is demanding a major mutual defense agreement and major arms deals from the US, as well as Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to use a red marker on a map of ‘The New Middle East’, as he addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Friday, September 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Mary Altafar)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his address to the United Nations last Friday that Israel is “on the verge” of a historic deal with Saudi Arabia.

Earlier in the week, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Fox News that “every day we are getting closer to normalizing relations with Israel in their country, making it clear that Palestine’s The issue is still a “very important” component of the process and declared that Saudi Arabia would have to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran did so.

Earlier this month, an Israeli delegation of nine staff went to Saudi Arabia as observers at a meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. According to an Israeli official, the delegation was led by the head of the Israel Antiquities Authority and included diplomats.

Next week, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi will arrive in Saudi Arabia on Monday evening to attend the 2023 Extraordinary Congress of the Universal Postal Union in Riyadh, his office told The Times of Israel. Karhi will address the UN conference, which runs from Sunday to Thursday next week.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, during a debate and vote in the Knesset, on March 1, 2023, in Jerusalem.

Karhi is flying through another country in the region, and already has a visa. He will bring with him a small delegation to the kingdom that does not recognize Israel.

Karhi, a religious Jew, will not have a porch in his hotel on which to build a sukkah during the Sukkot holiday next week, but he will bring a lola and etrog with him.

Knesset Economic Affairs Committee Chairman David Button is also scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia next week, according to Hebrew media reports.

Like Katz, Karhi and Button are both members of the ruling Likud party.

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Israel’s delegation is participating in the 45th extended session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Riyadh on September 11, 2023. (Rania Sanger/AFP)

Israel reportedly pulled Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Education Minister Yves Kish from attending the conference after the Saudis blocked the visa process.

In March, Axios reported that Saudi Arabia blocked Cohen from leading a delegation to a United Nations World Tourism Organization conference. According to unnamed Israeli officials, Cohen was unable to travel after the Saudis refused to discuss security arrangements.

In July, a team of Israeli gamers was allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia to participate in a video game version of the FIFA World Cup.

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