Iran, Hamas condemn Netanyahu visit to Oman: ‘Israel seeking Muslim division’

After PM returns from visit to Arab state, Tehran complains US and ‘Zionist lobby’ pressuring Islamic nations to normalize ties; Hamas lambastes ‘stab in the back’ to Palestinians

Bahram Ghasemi, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, gives an interview with AFP in the capital Tehran on October 2, 2018. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
Bahram Ghasemi, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, gives an interview with AFP in the capital Tehran on October 2, 2018. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Iran on Friday night condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s surprise visit to Oman, claiming the Jewish state was seeking “to create divisions between Muslim countries” in the region.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bassam Ghasemi said: “This regime seeks to create divisions between Muslim countries and obscure 70 years of usurpation, rape and killing of the oppressed Palestinians.”

He further claimed the US and the “Zionist lobby” in Washington were pressuring Islamic countries “to normalize relations” with Israel.

“History and experience show that retreating and acquiescing to the illegitimate demands of the United States and the usurper Zionist regime will make them more bold and more dominant in the region, while ignoring the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights,” he said.

“In our view, the Islamic countries of the region should not allow the White House to use the Zionist regime to create a climate promoting new troubles in the region.”

Iran seeks Israel’s destruction, and arms, trains and funds terrorist groups on Israel’s borders.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)Terrorist group Hamas also censured the meeting, calling it “a stab in the back” to the Palestinian people.

Hamas “deplores the acceleration of normalization with the Israeli entity” which serves as “an encouragement and cover for the Zionist enemy to commit more crimes and violations against the Palestinian people, and a stab in the back,” the organization said in a statement,

Earlier Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Netanyahu and his wife Sara had just returned from Muscat after meeting with Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

Netanyahu’s visit to Oman marked the first by an Israeli leader in over two decades. The last was in 1996, when Shimon Peres visited.

A top Israeli analyst on Friday suggested Netanyahu’s trip to Oman, which maintains good relations with Tehran, may have been intended to make some undisclosed use of Muscat’s role as a regional mediator — particularly with Iran.

The Netanyahus were invited to Oman by the sultan, who has been ruling the Gulf state since 1970, “after lengthy contacts between the two countries,” the PMO’s statement said.

“The Prime Minister’s visit is a significant step in implementing the policy outlined by Prime Minister Netanyahu on deepening relations with the states of the region while leveraging Israel’s advantages in security, technology and economic matters,” the statement said further.

Netanyahu and his wife were accompanied by Mossad Director Yossi Cohen, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem, the head of the Prime Minister’s staff, Yigal Horowitz, and the Prime Minister’s Military Secretary, Brig.-Gen. Avi Bluth.

A joint statement issued by Jerusalem and Muscat said the two leaders discussed “ways to advance the peace process in the Middle East as well as several matters of joint interest regarding the achievement of peace and stability in the Middle East.”

US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt attends a press conference regarding the water agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on July 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Netanyahu’s visit came just days after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also met with the sultan in Muscat.

The US lauded the development. “We welcome the warming ties & growing cooperation between our regional friends,” special envoy for Middle East peace Jason Greenblatt tweeted.

“This is a helpful step for our peace efforts & essential to create an atmosphere of stability, security & prosperity between Israelis, Palestinians & their neighbors.”

He added, “Looking forward to seeing more meetings like this!”

Netanyahu has for years spoken about the warming ties between Israel and the Arab world, citing not only Iran as a common enemy but also many countries’ interest in cooperating with Israel on security and defense matters, as well as Israel’s growing high-tech industry.

Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report

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