MasterFeeds: @Netanyahu seeks to bolster #Israel’s ties with #ArabGulf nations even as Israeli-#Palestinian peace process may be stalled

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October 29, 2018

@Netanyahu seeks to bolster #Israel’s ties with #ArabGulf nations even as Israeli-#Palestinian peace process may be stalled

Netanyahu seeks to bolster Israeli ties with Gulf nations | Financial Times

"Israel does not want it to stand in the way of normalizing ties with the wealthy and increasingly interventionist Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia."

"The younger generation of Gulf Arab leaders have not shown the same determination as their elders to shun Israel because of the Palestinian conflict and have instead engaged in informal outreach to Jerusalem."

https://www.ft.com/content/9a7933aa-db93-11e8-8f50-cbae5495d92b

Netanyahu seeks to bolster Israeli ties with Gulf nations

Israel sends cabinet members to Oman and UAE following prime minister's Gulf trip

© AFP

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, is seeking to bolster his country's ties with Gulf countries long seen as its foes in an unusual public effort focused on Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

On Friday, Mr Netanyahu revealed that he had visited the Sultan of Oman, who greeted the prime minister, his wife, and the head of Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence service. Next week, his minister of transportation and intelligence, Israel Katz, will head to Oman for a conference.

At the weekend one of Mr Netanyahu's parliamentary allies wept as the Israeli national anthem rang out in an Abu Dhabi sports auditorium after a Jewish athlete won a judo championship. On Tuesday his communications minister, Ayoob Kara, is expected in the UAE, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel, for another conference.

Much of the Arab world has shunned the Jewish state since it was born in 1948, but Mr Netanyahu is betting he can create stronger relations with influential Gulf nations on the basis of shared fears over Iran and a shared interest in boosting trade ties.

The Gulf initiatives come at an opportune political moment for Mr Netanyahu. Israeli analysts predict an election early next year and note that the prime minister — who also holds the foreign policy portfolio — could claim improved relations as a win.

Mr Netanyahu's visit to Oman — the first by an Israeli leader since 1996 — was filmed and made public at the request of the prime minister's office, according to a person familiar with the talks leading up to it.

Although Israel has maintained clandestine ties with Gulf nations for at least a decade, they have not been publicised because Arab leaders worry that they would anger their citizens as long as the Israel-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved.

The Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said Al Said, severed ties with Israel during the second intifada, but he hosted some of the talks that led to the Iran nuclear deal and is seen as an intermediary between Jerusalem and Tehran.

Other Gulf nations share Israel's concerns about Iranian expansionism in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.

Because of Oman's strong relations with Iran it has been left out in the diplomatic cold by the Trump White House, which has abandoned the nuclear deal.

A visit from a western ally helped shore up the Sultan's standing in Washington, while allowing Mr Netanyahu to advertise an example of Israeli-Arab co-operation, said Eli Avidar, the former head of the Israeli delegation to Qatar.

"This visit to Oman was made possible purely because of the interests of the Sultanate of Oman," said Mr Avidar, who also advised former prime minister Ariel Sharon on diplomatic issues.

Iranian officials have criticised the Israeli leader's visit to Oman, but few expect Muscat to pivot away from Tehran as it seeks to balance interests across the divided region.

While the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is stalled, Israel does not want it to stand in the way of normalising ties with the wealthy and increasingly interventionist Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia.

The younger generation of Gulf Arab leaders have not shown the same determination as their elders to shun Israel because of the Palestinian conflict and have instead engaged in informal outreach to Jerusalem.

"Israel is building a wall of countries [with] which it has interests that it can use as leverage to get Iran to start backing down," said Michael Stephens, research fellow for Middle East studies at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank. "The idea is to surround Iran from all sides — it's the diplomatic equivalent of putting missiles in Cuba."

Next week, Mr Katz, the transportation minister, will go to Oman to present a somewhat improbable plan for a railway line to connect Haifa in northern Israel with the Gulf via Jordan.

The plan, nicknamed, Regional Tracks for Peace, has Mr Netanyahu's approval, despite the fact that all the countries involved except Jordan still officially consider Israel an enemy state.

"Mr Katz is going as the minister of transportation to a conference of ministers of transportation, but he is going also in his double function, as part of his intelligence portfolio," said Arye Shalicar, an adviser.

"Already we see that little by little countries in the Middle East are approaching each other and approaching us, and we're sure that contacts on a wider and a more intensive scale will probably take place."



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