WARSAW, Poland — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah Wednesday on the sidelines of Warsaw’s Middle East conference, telling him that the recent rapprochement between the two countries was “changing the world.”
“I have to tell you that the courageous decision of Sultan Qaboos to invite me to Oman is changing the world,” Netanyahu said, referring to his October 2018 visit to Muscat.
“It’s paving the way for many others to do what you said — not to be stuck in the past but to seize the future.”
Netanyahu said many Arab countries were following Oman’s lead in moving toward more open interaction with Israel, “including at this conference.”
“I want to thank you for this forward-looking, positive policy that can lead to peace and prosperity for all,” Netanyahu said.
“Indeed, this is an an important, new vision for the future,” the Omani foreign minister responded, speaking in English. “People in the Middle East have suffered a lot, because they have [been stuck in] the past. This is a new era for the future, and for prosperity for all the nations.”
Wednesday’s meeting took place at the Warsaw Intercontinental hotel, where Netanyahu’s delegation is staying.
Netanyahu’s surprising October 26, 2018, visit to Oman marked the first time an Israeli leader publicly visited the Gulf state since 1996.
Since then, Omani leaders have continued to advocate for the Arab world to normalize its relations with Israel.
Two days after Netanyahu’s trip to Muscat, which was celebrated on the front pages of several Omani newspapers, bin Alawi suggested at a conference in Bahrain that the time had come for Israel to be treated like any other state in the region. Remarkably, his colleagues from Manama and Riyadh did not disagree, even expressing tacit support for Oman’s efforts to help advance the peace process.
Netanyahu and bin Alawi are currently in Warsaw to attend a so-called “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East,” which is being co-organized by the US and Poland.
Representatives of some 60 nations are set to attend the conference, including the foreign ministers of ten Arab countries.
The conference opening on Wednesday evening was originally touted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as focusing on Iran’s regional actions, but organizers have since dialed down the emphasis on Tehran. In a joint op-ed published Wednesday morning on CNN’s website, Pompeo and Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz wrote that the summit will deal mainly with the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other security-related regional matters.
Pompeo and Czaputowicz only mentioned Iran indirectly, carefully avoiding the impression that the summit’s focus is an effort to isolate the Islamic Republic.
Netanyahu has said the conference will not focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, since Pompeo and US Vice President Mike Pence — who will also attend the summit — do not deal with the administration’s much-anticipated peace proposal.
Rather, Netanyahu told reporters Tuesday evening, the conference will have a clear emphasis on efforts to thwart Iranian aggression.
In a video posted to Facebook Wednesday, Netanyahu said he’d had “an excellent meeting” with the Omani diplomat.
“We discussed additional steps we can take together with the countries of the region in order to advance common interests. This will continue,” he vowed.
“From here I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran. What is important about this meeting — and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those — is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.”
The summit appears to be the first time an Israeli leader and senior Arab officials will attend an international conference centered on the Middle East since the Madrid peace conference in 1991, which set the stage for the landmark Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu and the Arab officials will share a stage during a group photo scheduled for meeting participants.
Palestinians have been heavily critical of the conference, With officials describing the meeting as an effort by the US to advance its anti-Palestinian positions.