Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu visits Gulf State of Oman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded a secret trip to the Gulf State of Oman; “a historic diplomatic visit,” which according to the Israeli leader ‘is a major step in normalizing Israel’s relations with the Arab world.’ On Friday, my wife and I returned from a historic diplomatic visit to Oman. I met with the leader of Oman; Sultan Qaboos bin Said, a very experienced and impressive man. This is Israel’s first official visit to Oman in 22 years. This visit comes against the background of diplomatic efforts that I have been promoting in recent years vis-a-vis the Arab countries. In our long meeting we discussed in detail the challenges facing the Middle East. These were important talks – both for the State of Israel and very important talks for Israel’s security. There will be more,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.  The meeting, which was announced only after the return of the Israeli leader, was just one among many that have been held since the early 1970s between senior Israeli officials and their Omani counterparts. According to a senior Israeli official, who spoke to TV7 on condition of anonymity, the relations with Oman opened the gates to important secret relations, beyond its already growing regional position, as Oman serves as a mediator between many countries and is accepted by all as an honest broker, including by Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. According to the official, “Israel will be able to establish a secret line of communication with any country, via Oman, including with Israel’s arch enemies, Iran and Syria.” That said, the objective of Netanyahu goes in line with Jerusalem’s Middle Eastern strategy of creating alliances with moderate Sunni countries and organizations, with the goal of stopping Iran’s malign activities across the region.

Meanwhile, Omani Foreign Minister Yousuf Bin Alawi described Israel as a state that must be accepted as part of the Middle East. The Omani top diplomat, who spoke at a diplomatic conference in Bahrain, rejected criticism of his country’s decision to host Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this. The world is also aware of this and maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same and to also bear the same obligations,” Yousuf Bin Alawi, Omani Foreign Minister.

Contrary to the Omani Foreign Minister, his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir, whose country has reportedly developed strategic relations with Israel behind the scenes, stressed that normalization of relations between Riyadh and Jerusalem was only possible once a peace agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians. “The issue of Israel: for us in Saudi Arabia, we have no relations with Israel. We believe that the key to normalizing relations with Israel will have to be the peace process, and this is enshrined in the Arab Peace Initiative, that was adopted at the Beirut Summit in 2002, that calls for Israel to withdraw from occupied Palestinian territory and allow establishment of a Palestinian state with the ’67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in exchange for peace and normalization with Israel. This remains our position today,” Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Foreign Minister.