image Photo: Reuters

Israel: 5 Arab states on normalization path

Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen confirmed comments from U.S. President Donald Trump that there are five more possible nations that could soon normalize relations with the Jewish State.

Since August, the United States brokered three historic peace agreements between Israel with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

Trump, who has played up his Middle East policy while campaigning for re-election, was asked last week which countries might follow in normalizing ties with Israel. “We have five definites,” he responded.

Israeli officials rarely comment on elections in other countries, but Intelligence Minister Cohen showed no such reticence. While not explicitly favoring either U.S. presidential  candidate, Cohen asserted that Trump’s policy had prompted Arab and Muslim countries to seek accommodation with Israel.

While speaking to Ynet TV, he said “the five countries” on “the agenda” of Washington’s proposed regional rapprochement are “Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Morocco and Niger.”

Realization of these deals could depend on the continuation of a firm stance by U.S. leadership against Iran, said the Israeli Intelligence Minister.

“If there will be a president who does not show resolve vis-a-vis Iran, then what will happen is that they will take their time, will not rush, will not choose a side,” Cohen maintained. “Therefore like I said, if the policy of the next U.S president will be a continuation of the current policy, it will be able to lead to more peace agreements – a concessionary policy will get the peace deals stuck.”

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden has indicated that his administration would rejoin the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal with Iran that the Republican-incumbent, to the satisfaction of Israel and some Gulf Arab states, withdrew from in 2018.

Saudi Arabia, the Gulf powerhouse and Islam’s birthplace, quietly acquiesced to the Abraham Accords signed by Israel with the UAE and Bahrain in Washington, D.C. on 15 September; although it has stopped short of endorsing the deals and signaled it is not ready to follow suit. Riyadh was the architect of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that called for normalized ties with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from the West Bank to make way for a Palestinian state.

Qatar, which is linked to Israeli’s arch-foes Iran and Hamas, has ruled out a peace deal with Israel until after Palestinian statehood has been achieved.