Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu makes rare visit to Oman

Cheryl Sanders
October 27, 2018

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Bait Al Baraka, according to a statement by the Oman News Agency on Friday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (SL), accompanied by his wife Sara, is greeted by Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018.

Unusually, the trip was prominently highlighted in Oman's state media.

The last Israeli leader to visit Oman was Shimon Peres in 1996.

Kara said Israel expects "more pleasant surprises and gestures" from Gulf countries in the coming days.

Palestinian sources say Sultan Qaboos told both Netanyahu and Abbas to restart peace talks, but Palestinians told him there isn't a good chance negotiations can resume with Israel's current right-wing government.

Netanyahu's office said on Friday: "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".

Munir al-Jaghoob, a senior official with Abbas's ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, said that Netanyahu's visit to Oman "eliminates the Arab Peace Initiative, which is based on land-for-peace, which will be followed by the establishment of relations between Israel and the Arab countries".

The visit comes after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' visit to Oman earlier this week, raising the prospect that the sultanate may mediate between the two sides.

In another sign of warming ties between Israel and Arab states, Israel's judo team is set for the first time to participate at an worldwide competition in the UAE under their national flag.

"You should not underestimate the openness and the thirst in the Arab world today for Israel", the Israeli prime minister said on Thursday.

"We are witnessing the implementation of the Netanyahu-Kushner-Greenblatt plan", he said, referring to USA presidential advisors Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt.

A Wikileaks cable from 2010 reported that Gulf states believed they could "count on Israel against Iran".

The two leaders issued a joint statement saying the two sides "discussed ways to advance the Middle East peace process and discussed a number of issues of mutual interest to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East".

Bahrain, which has a small Jewish community, has also had some unusual outreach with Israel. Despite vocal opposition by Israel and disapproval of several Sunni countries including Saudi Arabia, the deal offered Iran relief from worldwide sanctions in exchange for its scaling back of parts of its nuclear program.

The three-day summit was attended by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

However, Israel has been making increasingly intense contact with the Gulf Arab states through secret channels, motivated largely by a shared opposition to Iran.

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