JISS - The Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Oman, the first overt visit in over twenty years by an Israeli prime minister to an Arab country that does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, is extremely significant. However, formal diplomatic relations between Israel and Arab states will not develop without an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. While it may view positively the steps of other Gulf states to increase the visibility of their ties with Israel and it may even encourage them, Saudi Arabia itself will not formal ties with Israel in the foreseeable future either.

In the past month, there has been an upsurge in overt visits by senior Israeli officials in several Arab Gulf states with which Israel does not have official bilateral diplomatic relations, as well as in positive public statements by Gulf leaders regarding Israel. The most significant was the visit by Prime Minister Netanyahu in Oman, the first overt visit in over twenty years by an Israeli prime minister to an Arab country without diplomatic relations with Israel.

These developments have fueled euphoria and speculation in Israel about the possibility of increased normalization, or even diplomatic relations, with additional Arab states.

This paper will look at the strategic and political underpinnings of the recent uptick in overt relations between Israel and several Gulf States, and analyze their positions and interests, as well as those of major international and regional players; and make a cautious estimate regarding the likely next steps. (It will not examine in depth the United Arab Emirates or Kuwait, where no significant policy change has occurred or been indicated in the past few months).

What’s New?

The recent spate of overt visits includes those of:

  1. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a high-level Israeli delegation to Oman (October 26), without prior announcement by either country. The Prime Minister was accompanied by his wife, by the head of Israel’s foreign intelligence service, Mossad (who is reported to be the helmsman of the improved relations with the Gulf States, and to oversee deep covert cooperation with them), by the National Security Adviser, by the Director General of the Foreign Ministry and by other defense officials. Speaking to Cabinet colleagues after his return, Netanyahu said, “This visit comes against the background of diplomatic efforts that I have been promoting in recent years vis-à-vis the Arab countries. There will be more.”1
  2. Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, who visited Abu Dhabi for the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Judo tournament. Israel’s team won two gold medals in the tournament, and the Israeli flag was flown, and the national anthem played. The next day, in a surprising development, Regev was accompanied by Emirati officials to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a site regularly shown to world leaders visiting the country.
  3. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who visited Oman shortly after the Prime Minister, to participate in the World Road Transport Union World Congress, where he presented an American-supported regional rail project, called “Tracks for Middle East Peace”. This is based on the use of the Israeli port of Haifa, with Jordan serving as a regional rail hub attached to existing or planned regional rail infrastructure, to shorten transit times of goods from Asia to the Mediterranean 2 International and regional media made much of the fact that Katz also serves as Israel’s Intelligence Minister (though that office does not have an operational function).
  4. Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, who visited the UAE for a week in early November to participate in the International Telecommunication Union Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai.
  5. Economy Minister Eli Cohen was invited in early November to participate in the “Startup Nations Ministerial” conference, sponsored by the World Bank and the Global Entrepreneurship Network, to be held in Bahrain in April 2019.3

The day after Netanyahu’s recent visit, Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi stated at a conference in Manama that “Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this … The world is also aware of this fact. Maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same [as other states] and also bear the same obligations … We are not saying that the road is now easy and paved with flowers, but our priority is to put an end to the conflict and move to a new world.” Bin Alawi met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Oct. 31, five days after the Netanyahu’s visit to Oman, reportedly to report to Abbas about the sultan’s talks with Netanyahu. Abbas had visited Oman several days before Netanyahu, accompanied by Secretary of Fatah Central Committee Jibril Rajoub and the head of the General Intelligence Service.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said after Netanyahu’s visit: “We have never ever questioned the wisdom and farsightedness of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos in trying to help and do their part in trying to reach a solution for this [Palestinian-Israeli] issue … We look forward to Sultan Qaboos succeeding in his effort.”4 There have been many reports in Middle East news sources saying that an official announcement of Bahrain normalizing ties with Israel could be made in the coming months, and/or that an overt visit by Netanyahu to Bahrain will soon follow the visit to Oman.

At the same time, Qatar, which has had constant, though mostly unofficial relations with Israel since the 1990’s, has continued its involvement in the contacts to ease tensions between Israel and Hamas (including, reportedly, the return of the remains of Israeli soldiers and captured civilians), and improve the humanitarian situation within the Gaza Strip. Qatar has reportedly begun purchasing ten million dollars-worth of fuel per month to provide electricity to Gaza, after the PA stopped payments to the Israel Electric Corporation as a means of pressure on Hamas. In addition, Israel permitted Qatar to pass 15 million dollars in cash into the Strip on November 8th to pay salaries to thousands of civil servants working for the Hamas government in Gaza, which the Palestinian Authority has refused to pay. This was the first tranche of $90 million that will come into Gaza over the next six months with Israeli approval.5 Arab press reports say that Qatar and Israel agreed to establish a port in Cyprus and a shipping route to be monitored by international forces, to serve the Gaza Strip.6

Background

Israeli relations with the Gulf States have been steadily improving particularly since 2013. An “axis of converging interests” emerged then between them as they jointly opposed the negotiation process between the P-5+1, especially the Obama Administration in the United States, and Iran, which led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in July 2015. The election of President Donald Trump accelerated this dynamic, since the Trump administration encourages the nexus, both as a key component of its strategy vis-à-vis Iran and in the context of its “outside-in” approach to solving the Palestinian issue.7 In addition, in the wake of the Arab Uprising of 2010-2011, and its daunting legacy in Syria, Yemen and Libya – including the rise of ISIS – most countries in the region became more concerned with internal and systemic stability, and so, more interested in security and intelligence cooperation, including with Israel. This has at the same time lessened the relative salience of the Palestinian issue, which in any case has seemed even more intractable since the de facto division of Palestine into Hamas- and Fatah-led statelets.

The period of 1994-1999 was the high-water mark until now of Israeli engagement with the wider Arab World, with missions being opened in Tunisia, Morocco, Qatar, Oman and Mauritania. The missions in Tel Aviv and Muscat, like most of the others, was closed in October 2000 (those in Mauritania and Qatar were formally closed in 2009), with the outbreak of the Second Intifada, and the overt relations between the two countries became quiescent.8

Netanyahu’s visit in Oman is a very significant development. The rest of what has occurred in the past weeks is an accumulation of events which are not, in and of themselves, unique. Israeli businessman (especially those with dual citizenship), athletes, diplomats and officials, and even Ministers, have been visiting the Gulf States (though not Saudi Arabia) more or less openly for years. Israel maintains an official office (which it stresses is not a bilateral diplomatic mission) to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi since November 2015, and Cabinet level ministers from Israel have participated in IRENA’s meetings openly in 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. In addition, Israeli officials participate in the meeting of the Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) in Oman, inaugurated in 1997. This center, with Israeli, Jordanian, Palestinian, Qatari and Omani participation, is the sole surviving regional organization created by multilateral process launched at the Madrid Conference of 1991, and is said to serve as a forum for discreet diplomatic engagement at the working level.9

What has changed recently, and significantly, is the willingness of the Gulf states to afford a much higher public profile to the discreet relations which have been in existence for years. Israel was always inclined to make such meetings public. It was the Arabs who were very sensitive to photo-ops of the sort because of public opinion and the Palestinian issue. This new willingness projects the appearance of a significant improvement in the relationship, and is perhaps a significant improvement in and of itself.

Oman: What Role for the Middleman?

Oman is a unique country within the Middle East. While a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), it has for many years based its foreign policy on neutrality and on offering its good offices as a mediator. It has reportedly tried to mediate in the Qatari and Yemeni crises; in the past it held secret (unsuccessful) talks during the Iran-Iraq War and after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and has negotiated the release of hostages. This is partly based on religious principles (Oman pursues a quietist form of Islam known as Ibadism), as well as on its long history as a neutral trading entrepot on the far margin on the Arab World.10 In addition, “[t]he Omanis sit between Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. If the sultan or his successor cannot maintain the balance among these countries, Oman may well get sucked into conflicts its leadership has sought to avoid”.11

Oman has been a quiet but consistent opponent of Saudi hegemonic behavior in the Gulf, including opening its ports to Qatar after the imposition of the Saudi-led embargo on it. Oman has not participated in the Saudi-led interventions in Bahrain in 2011 nor in Yemen since 2015, and has not been involved in the war in Syria. It has good relations with Iran, and was the key intermediary in facilitating the Iranian contacts with the U.S. that developed into the JCPOA in 2015, including hosting secret U.S.-Iranian talks in 2013. It is worth noting that Oman, which has only small reserves of oil and gas, is in a tenuous economic position: Major credit agencies have downgraded Omani debt over the last year. It has however, benefitted substantially from the embargo on Qatar, becoming a shipping, logistics and air hub for the encircled peninsular emirate; It is also planning a gas pipeline to receive Iranian gas.12

Israeli ties with Oman are not new: security ties began in the 1970’s, when Israel, with Britain and the Shah of Iran, is reported to have helped Sultan Qaboos defeat the rebellion in the Dhofar. Oman supported the 1978 Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, and, unlike almost all the Arab states, did not break its diplomatic ties with Egypt after the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace Treaty. Covert contacts are reported to have been maintained by Mossad since the mid-1980s.13 After the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the Oslo Accords of 1994, bilateral relations with Israel improved further, with Oman’s participating in the multilateral working group on water and the environment (including hosting a meeting of the group in Muscat in April 1994), and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin visiting Oman in December 1994.  In January 1996, Israel and Oman signed an agreement to open trade missions in Muscat and Tel Aviv, and in April 1996, Prime Minister Shimon Peres visited Oman (and Qatar).

Oman seems to be striving to prove to the United States and Saudi Arabia its importance as a facilitator in regional tensions. Press reports speak of the possibility that the Omanis are trying their hand at mediation between Israel and the PA, which at the moment are at daggers drawn, diplomatically. Al-Alawi said that Oman would not take on a mediator role, but would “help bring the Israelis and Palestinians together”.14 Palestinian sources claim that the Palestinian side does not hold much hope for the Omani intermediary efforts, but do not want to insult the sultanate, and that “the PA is dealing with Oman’s proposals without really having much faith in them.”15 The PA has refrained from attacking Oman and Abu Dhabi for hosting the Israeli leaders; London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Oct. 29 that Abbas ordered Palestinian officials and spokespersons not to comment on Netanyahu’s visit to the sultanate.16 In fact, it is reported that the Head of Fatah’s Information Department Munir al-Jaghoub, who stated in a press statement that the visit aims to undermine the Arab peace initiative based on “the land for peace” formula, denied later that he made such statements.17

Bahrain: The Next Stepping Stone?

Bahrain has enjoyed good, if discreet, relations with Israel for some time, based largely on the imminent threat it perceives from Iran (which has been involved in subversive activity with the majority Shiite population since the 1980’s). This seems to have deepened even further since the “Arab Spring” of 2011, when Saudi and Emirati forces entered the island state to restore order and preserve the ruling family against Iranian-backed protests. Since then, Bahrain has functioned in regional issues as a virtual Saudi satellite. In addition, Bahrain has a tradition of involvement in inter-faith discussion, which includes Jewish leaders.18

In May 2018, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa tweeted, after Israel carried out a massive attack on Iranian positions in Syria following the penetration of Israeli airspace by an Iranian drone, that “Israel is entitled to defend itself.” In July, an Israeli delegation participated in the 42nd session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Manama: Israeli sources downplayed the significance of the visit, pointing out that Israeli delegations take part in official UN-sponsored meeting even in countries where there are no diplomatic ties. On November 4, in the wake of the Oman visit, Sheikh Khalid tweeted that Netanyahu “has a clear position on the importance of stability in the region and the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in cementing that stability.” This was in response to Netanyahu’s statement in Bulgaria on November 2 that “what happened at the Istanbul consulate was horrendous and it should be duly dealt with …But at the same time, it is very important for the stability of the region and the world that Saudi Arabia remain stable”.19

Israeli sources soft-pedal expectations that a diplomatic breakthrough with Bahrain is near. One official said: “News stories that say full diplomatic recognition is around the corner actually cause the opposite effect … The Bahrainis want to get closer to Israel, but they want to do it slowly and carefully … For now, it’s mostly about small gestures like the UNESCO delegation visit.”20 An op-ed notes: “the far-reaching announcements voiced in the Israeli media hinder the small and measured steps being taken in this direction. In fact, not only [do such reports] cause uneasiness in the Bahraini government, it also threatened the continued cautious rapprochement between the two countries”.21

Where Does Qatar fit in?

Some might see the involvement of Qatar in the Gaza crisis as separate from the diplomatic and other moves in the Gulf. But they would be mistaken. Israel has retained ties with Qatar – albeit much less cordial and significant ones than in the past – despite the crisis between Doha and Saudi Arabia and UAE (and Bahrain), who would seem to be Israel’s partners today in an anti-Iranian coalition encouraged by the Trump Administration, as well as the el-Sisi regime in Egypt’s detestation of Doha. This could theoretically impact negatively on Israeli relations with Riyadh and Cairo. Israel has also retained ties despite Qatar’s close ties with Turkey, as well as with Hamas, for which senior Israelis have termed it a “state supporter of terrorism”, though Qatar is not defined in Israel as an enemy state22 .

But Qatar’s ties to Hamas, and perhaps to Turkey and Iran as well, may well be useful to Israel in back-channel and secret diplomacy. Egypt seems to have agreed to the significant Qatari role in financing the efforts to relieve tension in Gaza, perhaps due to its exclusion from a political role. In addition, Israel may well be loath to abandon a relationship with an Arab Muslim state which it has retained for more than twenty years, especially one which unlike Saudi Arabia and UAE, puts its money where its mouth is regarding calming Gaza. The relationship with Qatar may also be a function of both countries’ close ties with Washington, which expends effort on trying to “square the circle” of maintaining good relations with both sides of the Gulf feud.

Regional Responses

Many Arab commentators and intellectuals have expressed distress over the possibility of normalization of relations between Israel and Arab states, disconnected from the status of the Palestinian issue. Palestinian opposition groups have expressed their fears of a political deal “over the heads” of the Palestinians, and strongly expressed their disapproval of the Omani opening to Israel. Palestinian commentators and observers note that Israel is being hosted openly in Arab capitals, despite the lack of negotiations with the Palestinians, proving that Israel can enjoy good relations with the Arabs while bypassing the peace process, and that these states see no political cost in this.23

News sources and websites associated with Iran or Hezbollah also attacked the visits, which they viewed as part of an American-Israeli-Saudi plan to create an anti-Iranian bloc. It is, however, worth noting that Iranian media, while attacking Israel, refrained from criticism of Oman over the visit and the general trend it illustrates. Oman (and Qatar) seem to be inoculated from Iranian criticism and retaliation due to their good relations with Tehran, and the cracks in Iran’s inter-Arab isolation that they afford. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on November 13, “Israel wants to create a rift between Iran and Arab countries. Arab governments should be aware of this. But we will not meddle in Oman’s foreign policy, just as Russia and Turkey also have relations with Israel [without meddling from Iran].” A high-ranking official at Iran’s Foreign Ministry noted that, “[w]e were not surprised by what happened in Muscat. It is natural for any country to decide what players it should have relations with based on its national interests … in the past decades, Oman has shown its commitment to maintaining close ties with Tehran and will not move toward destroying this … [the visit] was not unpredictable. Therefore, we have no intention of changing our relations with Oman.” 24

Interests and Agendas

Israel has a significant strategic interest in improving its relations with the Arab world. However, the current Israeli government has a more particular interest in raising the public profile of these ties. The Oman visit was political manna for Netanyahu, who faces criminal investigations, restless coalition partners and the possibility of early elections. Netanyahu has therefore been stressing his foreign policy credentials, especially his success in breaking the isolation of Israel in the Muslim world, despite the lack of resolution of the Palestinian issue. While the recent developments with the Gulf stem from interests and strategic regional dynamics, there is therefore definitely a political interest and benefit in highlighting the recent wave of visits – all by ministers of the Netanyahu’s Likud party.

The Saudi regime may have played a role in the recent developments. Saudi Arabia may be encouraging Bahrain and UAE to take steps it cannot afford to do itself right now. These steps would test the reaction on the Arab street (which was in fact muted) to steps toward normalization with Israel, as well as normalize the process itself, reducing the cost for possible Saudi steps in the more distant future. Grace Wermenbol, of the University of Oxford, told Al Bawaba: “Bahrain, in the past, has served as the first GCC state to take action on behalf of the council; in 1994, the late Yossi Sarid, as Minister for Environment in the government of Yitzhak Rabin, was the first Israeli official to visit Bahrain; it was the first country in the region to declare Hezbollah’s military and political arms terrorist organizations; and it was first to sever economic and diplomatic ties with Qatar before other Arab states followed suit.”25

Saudi Arabia may have affected the trend in a less direct way: with the Saudi regime’s current troubles, both Israel and the Gulf countries may have decided to pursue a more decentralized development of relations, not dependent on a Saudi lead. The visit to Oman was undoubtedly in the works for some time (reports quoting anonymous officials speak of four months to over a year). The timing of the visit – the first official visit by an Israeli Prime Minister to an Arab country without formal diplomatic relations – just when prominent ties with Saudi Arabia may be awkward, is, however, intriguing. It might be a signal of “business as usual” and that Israeli Gulf policy is not “single-track” and dependent on Saudi orchestration.

In addition, the Gulf States – especially UAE and Qatar – have become significant international economic players in the past decade, striving for, and achieving, a higher international profile. They have hosted many international scientific, cultural, academic and sport events, as well as meetings of international organizations. This requires them to display willingness to extend equal hospitality to all participants, including Israel. For instance, while Israelis have for years appeared at sports events in the Gulf, organizers have usually made their participation conditional on their appearing under the flag of the sports federation running the event, with no Israeli symbols. Israeli press reports noted that the recent use of Israeli national symbols in Abu Dhabi followed a threat by the International Judo Federation, which had suspended the 2018 Grand Slam until the Emirati authorities committed in writing to providing equal rights to all countries.26

Another possible explanation for the visit, much bruited in commentary on the visit,  could be desire to create a possibility for mediation between Israel and Iran, or other of Jerusalem’s regional enemies. Such a possibility seems remote given the Netanyahu government’s bellicose position towards Iran, and given the overt nature of the visit – which could be assumed a priori to fuel speculation regarding an Israeli-Iranian back channel through Oman. However, it may – alongside the desire to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian rapprochement –have been one of the considerations encouraging Oman, for its part, to agree to take relations to the higher level.

Does the current prominence of Israel-Gulf relations reflect American encouragement of the Arab parties? The answer would seem to be positive, despite the unconvincing protestations by a “senior Israeli official” to Israeli television that the U.S. Administration was compartmentalized from the Israeli-Omani contacts over the past year and half, and that the issue was not mentioned to either White House advisor Jared Kushner or President Trump.27 The recent gestures received an endorsement from US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy, Jason Greenblatt, who said on Twitter: “In the last few days we have seen our regional partners Oman, Bahrain, and the UAE make statements and/or gestures signaling warmer ties with Israel. A more stable region leads to a stronger and more prosperous region. It is good for all.”28

Some reports place possible Omani mediation efforts in the context of the Trump Administration’s as-yet undisclosed peace plan (“the Deal of the Century”), which is being constructed by Kushner and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt. Saudi Arabia was rumored to be slated to play a major role in this plan, which may be adapted now, due to the diplomatic and bilateral fallout of the Khashoggi affair (including on the position and status of Kushner, who is closely identified with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman). In any case, a day after Netanyahu’s meeting with the sultan, Oman issued a statement underlining its support for the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which includes a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders (with land swaps) with East Jerusalem as its capital.29

What’s Next?

Israel will continue its long-standing policy of ceaseless effort to create covert, semi-overt and ultimately, normalized relations with Arab and Muslim states. In this it will continued to take advantage of an amenable regional and global strategic environment. The strategy seems to be – alongside robust but discreet security and crypto-diplomatic ties with Cairo and Amman – concentration on more distant and marginal regional players, such as Oman and Bahrain (but also Iraqi Kurdistan and Sudan, and even Chad – a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – whose president visited Israel this week). With these states, there are no pressing bilateral issues, the Palestinian issue has less resonance, and the geopolitical, security and technological benefits of ties with Israel loom large.

Bilateral relations with Israel, from the point of view of the Gulf States, are interest-based, transactional and a function on their reading of international and regional dynamics, not based on shared values or on genuine desire for friendship with Israel. They have little to gain from overt relations that they do not already enjoy with discreet and/or covert ties. It seems clear that despite the interest in and willingness to improve relations with Israel, lip service still needs to be paid by the Arab regimes to popular identification with the suffering of the Palestinian and dislike for Israel. The Arab uprisings of 2011 served as a lesson to Gulf leaders that they cannot get too far ahead of their publics: too close an identification with Israel could harm and de-legitimise them. Formal diplomatic relations will not be resumed as long as there is not an Israeli-Palestinian agreement; the Palestinian issue forms a “glass ceiling” to the bilateral relations.

Bahrain may in fact be the Gulf state with the best relations with Israel, albeit low-key, as well as that most concerned with the Iranian threat and with Hezbollah. A willingness to raise the public profile of relations, and take a step similar to that of Oman, should not be ruled out, especially if the United States and Saudi Arabia encourage Manama to do so.

Regarding Saudi Arabia itself, while covert contacts are reported to have existed for years, the “outing” of the ties in recent years has been mostly due to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and his coterie. The complexity of his position currently, following the Khashoggi killing, will probably lead him to lower his profile, especially regarding his more far-reaching (in the Saudi context) initiatives and positions. In recent weeks, both the Crown Prince and his father, King Salman, have been paying more attention to shoring up public opinion within the Kingdom: witness the recent, unprecedented, national tour by the two royals, and the announcement of major spending initiatives domestically. The issue of ties with Israel is not attractive to the domestic constituency. Saudi Arabia, while it may view positively the steps of other Gulf States to increase the visibility of their ties with Israel or even encourage them, will therefore not do so itself in the foreseeable future.


[1] “PM Netanyahu’s remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting”, 28/10/2018, http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/MediaCenter/Spokesman/Pages/spoke_start281018.aspx

[2] Tovah Lazaroff, “’Israel can be land bridge to Middle East,’ Israeli minister says in Oman”, Jerusalem Post, November 7, 2018.

[3]  Itamar Eichner, “Economics Minister invited to professional conference in Bahrain”, Ynet, November 9, 2018.

[4] Habib Toumi, “Bahrain hails, Iran condemns Oman’s wisdom in receiving Netanyahu”’ Gulf News, October 27, 2018.

[5] Nidal al-Mughrabi. “Qatar pays Gaza salaries to ease tensions; Israel says money’s not for Hamas”. Al-Jazeera, November 9.

[6] “Report: Israel, Qatar agree on a Gaza-Cyprus sea-route”, Qatar Herald, November 11, 2018.

[7] See Joshua Krasna, “The moderate Sunni camp: does it exist?”, Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies Research Paper, October 15, 2018.

[8] Elie Podeh, “Israel’s renewed affair with Oman”, The Jerusalem Post, November 8, 2018.

[9] Joseph Dubroff, “International Scientific Organizations and Israel’s Relations with the Arab World” Foreign Policy Research Institute, August 21, 2018. One interesting point to note is that the two countries that have formal diplomatic relations with Israel – Egypt and Jordan – have nothing approaching the level of normal relations –  that is, of diplomatic, intergovernmental and especially cultural and business ties – which Israel has with Gulf countries that don’t have formal diplomatic relations with it. This is probably due to the greater resonance that the Palestinian issue has with the publics and elites of both of these countries, which are quite alert and wary of public opinion.

[10] Richard Spencer, “Oman emerges as new power broker in the Middle East”, the Times, November 9, 2018.

[11] Steven A. Cook, “Oman just bought Israeli insurance”, Foreign Policy, November 7, 2018.

[12] Jonathan Schanzer and Varsha Koduvayur, “Kuwait and Oman are stuck in Arab no man’s land”, Foreign Policy, June 14, 2018.

[13] Yossi Melman, “Omani mediation between Iran and Israel is distant like East from West”, Maariv (in Hebrew), October 27, 2018.

[14] Nicole Salter and David May, “Is Bibi’s Oman visit an omen?”, the Weekly Standard, November 5, 2018.

[15] Adnan Abu Amer, “Will Oman broker Israeli-Palestinian peace talks?”, Al Monitor, November 5, 2018.

[16] Kifah Zboun, “Oman Minister in Ramallah after Netanyahu visit”. Asharq Al-awsat, October 31, 2018.

[17] Adnan Abu Amer, “Will Oman …”

[18] Tamara Zieve, “Could Bahrain be an up-and-coming Jewish tourism destination?”, the Jerusalem Post, March 4, 2018.

[19] “Netanyahu: Khashoggi killing was ‘horrendous,’ but Saudi stability is paramount”, Times of Israel, 2 November 2018.

[20] Amir Tibon, “the tiny Gulf state beating its neighbors in race for warmer ties with Israel”, Haaretz, July 1, 2018.

[21] Moran Zaga, “Are ties between Israel and Bahrain warming?”, The Jerusalem Post, August 2, 2018.

[22] Yoel Guzansky and Kobi Michael, “Israel’s Qatari dilemma”, INSS Insight No. 1034, March 14, 2018.

[23] Adnan Abu Amer, “Will Oman …”

[24] Saeid Jafari, “Iran turns to pragmatism as Israel woos Oman”, al-Monitor, November 20, 2018.

[25] Eleanor Beevor, “Saudi Arabia is playing political hardball, but Jordan stands in the way”, Albawaba.com, February 20, 2018.

[26] Tovah Lazaroff and Hagay Hacohen, “’Hatikvah’ plays for first time in UAE as Israeli judoka wins gold. Transportation minister heads to Oman as ties warm with Gulf”, Jerusalem Post, October 29, 2018 and Raphael Ahren, “Giant leap for Israel-Gulf ties can’t shatter the Palestinian glass ceiling”, Times of Israel,  November 1, 2018.

[27] Pazit Rabina, “the Omani equation and its price: the battle for credit and the ‘deal of the century’”, Makor Rishon (in Hebrew), November 4, 2018.

[28]Oren Liebermann, “Israel draws closer to Arab states — without the Palestinians”, CNN Wire, November 1, 2018.

[29]  Akiva Eldar, “Israeli celebration of ties with Gulf states premature”, Al-Monitor, November 8, 2018.


photo: Bigstock

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