Israel’s ongoing thawing of relations with various Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa is said to be sending Palestinian Authority officials scrambling, concerned that support for their cause is waning among allies.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s senior adviser Nabil Shaath told the Haaretz daily Monday that Ramallah is seeking to convene emergency sessions of the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation as it worries that countries such as Chad, Sudan, Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia are moving closer toward normalization with Jerusalem — relations that would counter resolutions passed by the two umbrella bodies.
“There are a number of Arab and Islamic resolutions and declarations stating explicitly that there will be no process of normalization with Israel without a resolution of the Palestinian issue based on the Arab Peace Initiative and decisions of the international community,” Sha’ath told Haaretz.
At the most recent summit of the Arab League in April, member countries signed off on a statement vowing not to make reconciliation agreements without an agreed-upon solution to the Palestinian issue.
“What we have been seeing in recent weeks — beginning with Netanyahu’s visit to Oman and the visit to Israel by the president of Chad, and now there is talk of Bahrain and Sudan and ties of one kind or another with Saudi Arabia — raises question marks, and there is therefore a need to clarify the Arab and Islamic position,” Shaath said.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Chadian President Idriss Déby for a historic visit to the Jewish state, laying the groundwork for normalizing ties with the Muslim-majority countries of Sudan, Mali and Niger, according to a report on Israel’s Channel 10 News Sunday.
Déby told Israeli leaders in Jerusalem that he wishes to restore diplomatic relations.
Other reports said Israel is also working to normalize relations with Bahrain, as Jerusalem ramps up its drive to forge more open relations with the Arab world amid shifting alliances in the Middle East driven by shared concerns over Iran.
Netanyahu has for years spoken about the warming of 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.
Oman last month welcomed the Israeli premier in a surprise visit, which marked an apparent sign of Israeli progress in improving ties with the Gulf states.
During a press conference with Déby on Sunday, Netanyahu remarked that “there will be more such visits in Arab countries very soon,” without providing details.
Netanyahu said Monday that recent signs of a diplomatic flourishing for Israel were occurring without Jerusalem having to make any concessions on West Bank settlements.
“We are opening up the world,” he told his Likud faction in public remarks Monday. “Israel is enjoying unprecedented diplomatic flourishing, including in the Arab world… and the Muslim world.”
Netanyahu stressed that previous leaders had attempted to strengthen Israel’s international standing with “dangerous concessions, including uprooting communities,” referring to the 2005 disengagement plan by former prime minister Ariel Sharon, in which all settlements in the Gaza Strip were dismantled.
“That hasn’t happened — and won’t happen — with me,” Netanyahu continued. “The exact opposite is happening. We are getting the world’s support, including by many in the Arab world, through our strong and steadfast standing.
“We believe in peace out of strength, we believe in alliances born out of Israel’s value as a technological, financial, defense and intelligence powerhouse,” he added. “That’s what we will continue doing, and that’s also how we’ll achieve peace.”
While Shaath noted that the thawing of Israel’s relations with Ramallah’s traditional backers has yet to reach the level of full diplomatic relations, he referred to “the beginning of a worrisome process that needs to be stopped.”
Shaath argued that these regional developments come against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s ongoing rift with the PA, which the PA claims Washington seeks to further isolate by encouraging various Arab and Muslim countries to improve their ties with Israel. The PA has been boycotting the Trump Administration since it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year and moved its embassy to the city in May.
The PA official said he hopes to convene emergency conferences on these issues, but admitted that most of the efforts of regional powers are being used to deal with the issue of reconciliation between Abbas’s Fatah and the Hamas terror group in Gaza, which have long been at odds.