Israel drops Saudi Arabia from virus quarantine list, day after Netanyahu's reported visit

Published November 24, 2020
This combination file photo shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. — Reuters
This combination file photo shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. — Reuters

A day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reported trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel's health ministry added the kingdom to its list of coronavirus “green” countries, exempting returning travellers from quarantine.

The health ministry on Tuesday confirmed that Saudi Arabia had been added to the safe list a day earlier, but dismissed any link to Netanyahu's reported visit to the futuristic Red Sea city of Neom on Sunday.

“The process is very simple and it happens once every two weeks,” health ministry director general Hezi Levi told public broadcaster Kan on Tuesday morning.

“On the previous list, Saudi Arabia was red,” he said. “The morbidity rates decreased. It's now green. “It has nothing to do with anyone's visit to any country.”

Israeli media reported that Netanyahu travelled to Neom for landmark talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, which has no official diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

There has been unconfirmed speculation that Saudi Arabia might be seeking to become the latest Arab state to normalise ties with Israel.

An Israeli government source contacted by AFP confirmed the talks, which Riyadh firmly denied on Monday, and the kingdom has publicly said it will not establish diplomatic relations with Israel until the Palestinian conflict is resolved.

Had Saudi Arabia not been on Israel's coronavirus green list, Netanyahu and his staff would technically been compelled to quarantine for 14 days upon return.

Another country turned “green” in the ministry's latest listing was Bahrain, which along with its Gulf ally the United Arab Emirates have established ties with Israel, only the third and fourth Arab nations to do so.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu announced he had spoken with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and accepted an invitation to conduct “an official visit to Bahrain soon”.

Opinion

Long arm of Big Tech
20 Jan 2021

Long arm of Big Tech

How many people would still be alive if Twitter and Facebook had denied Trump a platform to spread lies about Covid-19 a year ago?
Words, words, words
19 Jan 2021

Words, words, words

There was little in terms of contributions in our own language as we wrestled with the pandemic.

Editorial

Updated 20 Jan 2021

Broadsheet judgement

There are plenty of skeletons in the Broadsheet cupboard and they must be brought out into the open.
20 Jan 2021

Unequal justice

IT seems no one wants to testify against former SSP Malir, Rao Anwar. At least five prosecution witnesses, all ...
20 Jan 2021

Schools reopening

THE disruptive impact of Covid-19 on education will be felt for years to come. For countries like Pakistan, where...
Updated 19 Jan 2021

LNG contracts

It is important for industry to reconnect with the national grid and for gas to be allocated for more efficient uses.
19 Jan 2021

Murdered judges

THE continuous violence in Afghanistan has raised serious questions about the sustainability of the peace process, ...
19 Jan 2021

K2 feat

A TEAM of 10 Nepalese mountaineers made history over the weekend as they scaled the world’s second highest peak K2...