Official statements and declarations alone no longer express the real positions in Arab-Israeli relations.
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This happened just one day after the Israeli minister made a similar call to his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed that marked the inauguration of communication lines between the two countries.
The Omani ministry wrote on Twitter that both ministers discussed during the call “the latest developments in the region.” The call marked the first public contact between the Sultanate of Oman and Israel since the UAE announced on Thursday the normalisation of relations with the Jewish state.
On Friday, Muscat expressed its support for the UAE’s decision to normalise relations with Israel. Bin Alawi stressed during the call “the Sultanate’s firm and supportive position to achieve comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
He highlighted “the necessity of resuming the peace process negotiations and meeting the legitimate demands of the Palestinian people for their independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital, which is at the same time consistent with the Arab position.”
Although the Sultanate did not establish formal relations with Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held surprise talks in October 2018 with the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Muscat.
Political observers believe that the Sultanate of Oman would be taking into account its relationship with Iran in the decision to normalise relations with Israel, while at the same time maintaining its centrist policy in its relations with other countries.
Oman has good relations with Iran, unlike most of the other Gulf states which view Tehran’s aggressive foreign policy as blatant interference in regional affairs.
The Sultanate of Oman maintains friendly relations with both the United States and Iran and previously acted as a mediator between them. Bin Alawi received a call from Jibril Rajoub, secretary of the Fatah Central Committee led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Omani ministry said in another tweet that Rajoub “expressed (…) their appreciation of and reassurance by the role of the Sultanate and its balanced and wise policy towards Arab issues, foremost of which is the Palestinian cause.”
Gulf diplomatic sources described the Omani plan as very important, and said it was likely that the sultanate will be the second Gulf country to normalise relations with Israel. These sources also expected Bahrain to follow suit soon, while Qatar does not appear to be opposed to a rapprochement with Israel.
Bahrain and the Sultanate of Oman praised the Emirati-Israeli agreement although they did not comment on the prospects for normalising their relations with Israel, and neither of them responded to requests for comment on this matter.
The same diplomatic sources attributed the anti-normalisation Kuwaiti position to the influence of Islamist circles linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, and of Shia circles close to Iran, on the Kuwaiti political position.
The Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas quoted government sources in Kuwait as saying that the country’s stance towards Israel will not change and that it will be the last country to normalise relations with it.
Saudi Arabia is monitoring the situation while maintaining political silence about the Emirati move, but officials have indicated that it is unlikely that Riyadh will immediately follow in the footsteps of its main regional ally.
Political observers expect Saudi rapprochement with Israel to develop and increase via the UAE’s normalisation agreement. Mauritania expressed its confidence in the UAE’s “good judgment” in its decision to normalise relations with Israel.
A statement by the Mauritanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “The United Arab Emirates possesses absolute sovereignty and complete independence in conducting its relations and assessing its positions in accordance with its national interests and the interests of Arab and Muslim nations.” Mauritania had established full diplomatic relations with Israel, but they were frozen in 2009 in reaction to the Gaza war in 2008 and 2009.
Netanyahu has met with leaders from Sudan and Oman over the past two years, including a visit to the Sultanate of Oman in October 2018, where he was received by the late Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said. Netanyahu expected more countries to join the circle of peace.
“This is a historic change that strengthens peace with the Arab world and will ultimately lead to a real, strong and secure peace with the Palestinians,” he said in a statement issued by his office.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen expected Bahrain and the Sultanate of Oman to take similar steps as the UAE in normalising relations with Israel.
“In the wake of this agreement (with the Emirates), other agreements will be signed with more Gulf states and Islamic countries in Africa,” Cohen told Israeli Army Radio.
“I think Bahrain and Oman are definitely on the agenda. In addition, there is, in my estimation, a real opportunity in the coming year for a peace agreement with other countries in Africa, foremost among which is Sudan,” he added.
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