Oman welcomes normalization of ties between Israel and Bahrain

Sultanate, seen as another Arab country that could soon announce diplomatic relations with Jewish state, says it hopes agreement will lead to peace and a Palestinian state

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)
Illustrative: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

The Sultanate of Oman on Sunday hailed the announcement of normalization between Bahrain and Israel, saying the development reflects the hopes of all countries that want peace in the Middle East.

“The Sultanate welcomes the initiative taken by the Kingdom of Bahrain within the framework of its sovereign rights and the Tripartite Joint Declaration on Relations with Israel,” said a statement published by Oman state television.

“The Sultanate hopes that this new strategic direction, chosen by some Arab countries, will be a practical tributary toward achieving peace based on ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and establishing an independent Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem,” it continued.

“This embodies the principle of the two states as stipulated in Arab and international charters and decisions, and at the same time reflects the aspirations and demands of all countries and peoples that love a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East and in the whole world,” the statement read.

US President Donald Trump listens as Jared Kushner speaks in the Oval Office of the White House on September 11, 2020, in Washington, after Trump announced the US had brokered a peace deal between Israel and Bahrain. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

On Friday, US President Donald Trump announced that Israel and the tiny Gulf kingdom of Bahrain had agreed to normalize relations, and would sign a “Declaration of Peace” with Israel at the White House on Tuesday, at a ceremony where the United Arab Emirates will formalize its normalized ties with Israel.

The move came on the heels of the announcement last month that the UAE would establish full ties with Israel, bringing a long-covert relationship into the open. Bahrain as well had been seen moving closer to Israel in recent years, and last year hosted the rollout of the economic element of the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Oman is among a handful of Middle Eastern states, including Morocco, and Saudi Arabia, that Israel and the US hope could follow the UAE and Bahrain to forge diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. It expressed its support for the Israel-UAE normalization deal the day after that announcement on August 13.

Oman is a key interlocutor between the West and Iran, as well as Yemen’s Houthi rebels, assisting in getting prisoners released in the past.

Earlier this month The Times of Israel reported the Intelligence Ministry has analyzed the potential of future ties with three additional states in the region after the UAE deal and found fertile ground for robust cooperation, especially in the fields of security and trade.

“The emerging agreement with the UAE may open the door for the advancement of ties with additional Arab Gulf countries, primarily (in order of probability) Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia,” the ministry reported at the time.

The Sultanate of Oman — so far the only Gulf state that openly hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in October 2018 — has close ties with Iran, so the potential for arms deals is limited, according to the ministry. The Jewish state’s security ties with the country would likely be restricted to “soft” technology, for example in the fields of counterterrorism and internal security, the researchers wrote.

At the same time, the Omanis are likely to show great interest in Israeli civilian technologies, for instance in the fields of water, agriculture and applied technologies such as information and communication, cybersecurity, education and more.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

There have already been indications in recent years that Israel and Oman were drawing closer together.

Netanyahu visited Oman in 2018, the first trip by an Israeli leader in over two decades, in what was seen as a sign of warming ties between the Jewish state and the Sunni Arab world. He was hosted at the time by Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who died earlier this year and was succeeded by his cousin Haitham bin Tariq Al Said who appears to have continued the openness to Israel.

Then Omani foreign minister Yousef bin Alawi spoke on the phone last month with his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, in the first conversation of its kind between the two top diplomats.

Bin Alwai told Ashkenazi that Oman “clearly reaffirms its position calling for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace” in the Middle East. He also called for a “resumption of the peace process in order to satisfy the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people who aspire to an independent state.”

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