Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Sunday confirmed that he has been advancing non-aggression treaties with several Arab countries in the Gulf, a “historic” démarche he said could end the conflict between Jerusalem and those states.
“Recently I have been promoting, with the backing of the prime minister, a diplomatic initiative to sign ‘non-aggression agreements’ with the Arab Gulf states,” Katz wrote on Twitter.
“It’s a historic move that will end the conflict and enable civilian cooperation until the signing of peace agreements,” he said, in what appeared to be a tacit acknowledgement that no Arab country is currently willing to establish full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved.
Katz further confirmed that he presented his plan to several Arab foreign ministers during his visit to New York last week at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. He also discussed the proposal with the US administration’s outgoing special envoy for the peace process, Jason Greenblatt, Katz said.
“I will continue to work to strengthen Israel’s standing in the region and around the world,” he pledged.
Katz’s tweet included a link to a report aired Saturday night by Channel 12, which first revealed the existence of the potentially groundbreaking initiative.
לאחרונה אני מקדם, בגיבוי רה״מ, יוזמה מדינית לחתימת ״הסכמי אי לוחמה״ עם מדינות המפרץ הערביות. מהלך הסטורי, שישים קץ לסכסוך ויאפשר שת״פ אזרחי עד לחתימת הסכמי שלום. בביקורי באו״ם הצגתי את התוכנית לשרי חוץ ערביים ולשליח האמריקאי גרינבלט. אמשיך לפעול לחיזוק מעמד ישראל באזור ובעולם. pic.twitter.com/cNwl60igEN
— ישראל כ”ץ Israel Katz (@Israel_katz) October 6, 2019
The TV report, which did not quote a source, said the deal in the workings is designed to provide for friendly bilateral relations, cooperation in a variety of fields, and no war or incitement, as both Israel and the Gulf states face an increasingly belligerent Iran.
On September 23, Katz tweeted that he had held talks with an unnamed counterpart from an Arab country with which Israel does not have formal relations, and said they discussed “ways to deal with the Iranian threat” and a process for boosting “civilian cooperation.”
Katz agreed with his Gulf Arab interlocutors during “a series of meetings” in New York to set up working teams to take the non-aggression pact forward, the TV report said.
The draft clauses reportedly include commitments to develop “friendly relations and cooperation” in accordance with the UN charter and international law; to prevent hostility or incitement to hostility against each other; and to eschew any military or security alliance with other parties against each other.
Among other elements, the TV report said, the draft text specifies cooperation in the fight against terror, and in advancing economic interests.
Katz attended the General Assembly on behalf of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who remained in Israel as he seeks to negotiate a majority coalition. The prime minister had planned to attend the UN gathering and meet on the sidelines with US President Donald Trump, who had said earlier last month that he intended to discuss a possible US-Israel Mutual Defense pact.
Katz, who is also intelligence minister, has previously met with senior Arab officials at least twice: In early July, he met an unnamed senior Emirati official during a visit to the Gulf city of Abu Dhabi. Later that month, he shared a photograph with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa during an event hosted by the US State Department in Washington. It marked the rare instance in which a top Arab official is publicly documented meeting a senior Israeli figure.
In November 2018, Katz traveled to Oman to attend an international transport conference. “In my view cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states can and should be expanded,” he said at the time. “Israel also has a lot to offer when it comes to water desalination and irrigation, agriculture and medicine.”
In his speech at the UN last month, Katz stressed that Israel “has a clear policy to advance ties, and normalization with the Arab Gulf States.
“We have no conflict with the Gulf states, and we have common interests in the field of security against the Iranian threat as well as in developing many joint civilian initiatives,” he said.
“Israel has a lot of capabilities in many areas, including hi-tech, innovation, agriculture and water technology, which can help the Gulf states, and the Gulf states have a lot of capabilities that can help Israel as well,” he noted. “I hope that this cooperation will lead to the signing of peace agreements between our countries, as we did with Egypt and Jordan.”
In August, Katz said it was realistic to expect formal peace deals with moderate Sunni Gulf states within a few years.