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On the last day of the 2014 Gaza War, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a secret meeting with a special envoy from the Saudi king. In the meeting, Saudi Arabia proposed a joint diplomatic initiative on relaunching Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, rebuilding Gaza and confronting Iran, three sources briefed on the effort told me.

Why it matters: This was an unprecedented move by the Saudis — who do not have diplomatic relations with Israel — that could have profoundly shifted the regional dynamic. More surprisingly still, the Saudis planned to present it in public with the Israelis.

The details of the Saudi proposal, according to the sources:

  • Israel and Saudi Arabia would draft an updated version of the 2002 Arab peace initiative.
  • Netanyahu and the Saudi foreign minister would then present the initiative together during the meeting of the UN General Assembly.
  • Israel and Saudi Arabia would announce a process to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians would be relaunched.
  • Saudi Arabia would lead a regional push for the reconstruction of Gaza.

The backstory, according to the three sources:

  • In early September 2014, Netanyahu held a secret meeting with Saudi national security adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan. The meeting took place in a third country.
  • Bandar told Netanyahu at the meeting that Saudi Arabia wanted to relaunch the peace process in order to be able to unite the region against Iran.
  • Netanyahu was enthusiastic, and after 10 hours of talks, he and Bandar agreed to start preparing for a summit at the UN.
  • In the next few weeks, meetings were held between Netanyahu's advisers and Bandar's aides to draft a joint document.
  • Israel presented a draft, and while the Saudis agreed to many of the points, they asked Israel to show flexibility. Netanyahu refused to go further, and the talks collapsed, the sources told me.

Between the lines: The sources told me the Saudis felt they went out of their way toward Israel. They said the Saudis felt angry and humiliated, and they held Netanyahu responsible.

  • The sources told me that Bandar conveyed a message to Netanyahu two months later, with the bottom line being that he believed Netanyahu lied to him.

The big picture: The affair created a deep crisis between Israel and Saudi Arabia and communications between the parties almost stopped — even on the Iranian issue. The crisis ended only a year later, several months after the death of King Abdullah and the inauguration of King Salman.

Go deeper

Updated 18 mins ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

American officials and authorities in Haiti are working to try and free 17 hostages from a U.S.-based missionary group who were kidnapped in Port-au-Prince over the weekend, AP reported Monday.

The latest: Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement Sunday, "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children." The Ohio-based organization said they were on a trip to visit an orphanage when they were kidnapped Saturday.

China's economic growth slows

A worker assembles heavy truck engines in Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang Province, on Monday. Photo: Long We/Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

China's economy grew 4.9% in the third quarter of 2021 compared with a year earlier, the country's National Bureau of Statistics announced Monday.

Why it matters: The gross domestic product growth in the July-September period in the world’s second-largest economy marked the "weakest pace since the third quarter of 2020 and slowing from 7.9% in the second quarter," Reuters notes.

4 hours ago - World

Former spy Steele defends controversial Trump Russia dossier

Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele arrives at the High Court in London in July 2020. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The author of the "Steele Dossier," containing unverified claims about former President Trump told ABC News he stands by his controversial report, according to excerpts from an upcoming documentary released Sunday.

Why it matters: The FBI drew on former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele's dossier as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged links to Russia's government, which led to former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

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