Palestinian officials on Saturday expressed concern about a potential “normalization” of relations between Israel and Arab countries, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman.
Netanyahu met with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos late Thursday, an encounter that was kept secret until after he returned to Israel, where it was presented as a major coup for the Jewish state’s efforts to bolster ties with the Arab world.
“The value system and the Arab political and social pact don’t exist anymore,” Mohammad Shtayyeh, a prominent Fatah official close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement.
“It is the start of a public normalization and the end of the Arab Peace IUnitiative,” he added, referring to a 2002 Arab League proposal.
That initiative promised Arab states would forge diplomatic ties with Israel in exchange for a peace settlement creating a Palestinian state that returned all land captured in the 1967 Six Day War. It has been largely ignored by Israel, with Israeli leaders criticizing it as helping Palestinians to avoid negotiations and for demanding all Israeli concessions be implemented before any Arab concessions come into force.
Deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament Hassan Khreisheh on Saturday lamented an “unprecedented haste by Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel.”
Netanyahu’s visit to Oman was the first by an Israeli premier since 1996, when acting prime minister Shimon Peres visited and the countries agreed to establish trade representative offices.
Oman closed those offices in 2000 after the outbreak of the Second Intifada.
Netanyahu has long sought alliances with other Arab states which, like Israel, face an emboldened Iran, stressing that such ties could enable peace with the Palestinians.
Israel currently has full diplomatic relations with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan.