ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 139

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As minister visits, pro-Israel Saudi blogger goes offline amid fears he was arrested

Mohammed Saud, who’s advocated normalization and staunchly backed Netanyahu for years, disappears ahead of planned meet with visiting Israeli minister; media appearances nixed

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Saudi blogger Mohammed Saud speaks to Israeli TV on September 28, 2023. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Saudi blogger Mohammed Saud speaks to Israeli TV on September 28, 2023. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Prominent pro-Israel Saudi blogger Mohammed Saud has disappeared this week ahead of a planned meeting with a visiting Israeli minister and ahead of a scheduled appearance on Israeli television, leading to speculation that he might have been arrested by authorities in Riyadh.

Saud, an outspoken supporter of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been vocally backing Israeli-Saudi normalization for years on his account on X, formerly Twitter.

Saud, who speaks some Hebrew, has also consistently advocated pro-Netanyahu messages and amplified his claims against his political opponents. He even met Netanyahu in Israel in 2019, during a visit that drew backlash from the Arab world. Saud was last seen speaking to Netanyahu in a phone call last week that was highlighted by the premier on social media.

The username on his Twitter feed is written in Hebrew as well as in Arabic, and his description includes an Israeli flag emoji and the words “Only Bibi!” using Netanyahu’s nickname.

But as of Thursday morning, Saud hadn’t tweeted or made public appearances since Tuesday morning, when he posted footage of Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi praying in Riyadh during a landmark official visit to the kingdom, days after Tourism Minister Haim Katz became the first Israeli minister to ever make a public visit to the country.

Karhi is leading an Israeli delegation to the Universal Postal Union’s 2023 Extraordinary Congress, as Israel and Saudi Arabia edge closer to an agreement to normalize relations in a US-brokered deal that, if finalized, would mark a historic breakthrough for Israel’s standing in the Middle East.

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi (right) prays during a morning service, during Sukkot, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 3, 2023 (Spokesman’s Office, Communications Ministry)

Accompanied by Knesset Economy Committee chairman David Bitan, Karhi spoke at the conference on Wednesday and was slated to meet with US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Michael Ratney and other global figures, including Turkey’s communications minister, according to his office.

Karhi’s office also said Tuesday that the minister had received an invitation to visit a sukkah — a makeshift structure traditionally used by Jews during the festival of Sukkot — built by Saud at his home. Karhi’s office had added that the minister was expected to accept the invitation, but as of Thursday, there was no word of such a meeting.

Saud was expected to appear Wednesday evening on “The Patriots,” a panel show on the pro-Netanyahu Channel 14, on which he has appeared repeatedly. Saud participated in a promo for the show, filming himself saying: “Finally it is happening! I will be with you,” and hyped up the planned appearance on his X page.

But Saud didn’t end up taking part in the show, and several other scheduled media interviews were canceled, according to Hebrew media reports.

While there was no verified information, some on social media theorized that Saud may have been arrested by authorities, possibly unhappy with his increased social media presence or with his intention to meet the Israeli minister, which could have portrayed him as an official representative of Saudi Arabia.

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