If Oman is an omen, the Arab nations in the Middle East are now about to publicly accept Israel as…
If Oman is an omen, the Arab nations in the Middle East are now about to publicly accept Israel as a legitimate neighbor – a phenomenal historical breakthrough through any action.
During the weekend, Oman’s sultan, Qaboos Bin Sagt, was transformed into the region by welcoming Israel’s premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara to his palace in Muscat. He went even further and called on Israel to publicly report the visit. Omani TV shone handshakes and laughs at the Arab world.
Such public theatres fly for many decades of the refusal of many Arab nations to even recognize Israel’s existence.
Netanyahu said the visit was in line with his policy of “deepening relations with the states of the region.”
Critics minimized the significance of the event: Tiny Oman is not Sunnis or Shiit, and does not play any significant role in regional power policy. However, Israel’s Minister for Culture and Sport, Miri Regev, visited another Gulfist state a few days later.
And Regev is a hardliner; By the end of the summer’s Cannes Film Festival, she had a long dress provoked with a picture of Israeli controlled Jerusalem’s skyline. Once a week, she was photographed by donating traditional Arabic clothing and signing the guestbook on the world’s third largest mosque in Abu Dhabi.
After Oslo, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin also visited Oman. However, relations were terminated shortly as Israeli-Palestinian peace hopes fell. The remaining bands, if any, became deeply secretive.
And while Jerusalem’s relations with Muslim leaders from Morocco to Indonesia have long been private (albeit badly), they are increasingly published and debated even in Arab press and public forums
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, especially under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman , built up relations with Israel, primarily to defend Iran’s exaltation, even though it is not publicly recognized. And Jordan and Egypt already have peace covenants with the Jewish nation.
Here is the kicker: Increased acceptance of Israel will leave the Palestinians the odd man and perhaps force them to relax their non-starting demands that have stood in the way of a true peace with Israel.
The Palestinian cause was once the organizational principle behind the eternal Arab unity. But now it loses steam in the region. The rise of ISIS and other extremists challenging Arab leaders has made some of Israel’s neighbors reconsider whether Israel is really their threat no. 1
Even more important, “Rebalancing” of President Obama in the Middle East – generally speaking, as an American slope against Iran – Really save Arab Sunni leaders, urging them to consider any form of private alliance with Israel. Netanyahu, the hardest opponent of Tehran, convinced them that they could have a strong alliance in Jerusalem.
However, Israel’s improved position can also be the result, at least in part, of President Trump’s plans for an Israeli-Palestinian “century action.” It is based on an old Bibi idea that has been transposed into the plan – and it will be decades old American approach for Mideast peacekeeping on the head.
American mediation since the 1990s was proposed on the assumption that a new Palestinian state established and lived harmoniously next to Israel, Arab Arabs would create peace with Israel and a “new Middle East” would arise.
Bibi has pushed the opposite: As more Arab states make peace with Israel, Ramallah will have no choice but to come with the program.
The “outside-in” method recently suffered a blow, with Saudi Arabia’s brutal murder on Jamal Khashoggi. With warm personal relationships between the crown prince and Trumps son-in-law Jared Kushner, Riyadh had become decisive for the outer plan. Saudis still have a lot of power in the region, but it is not clear how much they can be invoked after the Khashoggia business.
So Team Trump may have pushed Oman and the Emirates to increase. To demonstrate that their new approach is alive and Well: After Netanyahu’s re-visit, Trumps Israel Advisor Jason Greenblatt was quick to tweet: “This is a good step for our peace efforts that are crucial for creating a stable atmosphere, security for prosperity between Israelis Palestinians, their neighbors. Looking forward to seeing more meetings like this! “
There is no doubt that no-one should expect a formal, lasting” peace in the Middle East “anytime soon. In the case of this region, much better to re-force violence between someone at a certain time.
But there’s really nothing wrong with hoping that little Oman, where Obama launched conversations with Iran that turned Mideast, will once again turn the tide – this time in a very welcome direction.