Israel’s Prime Minister responded to a tweet by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the UAE on Saturday, December 21.
“I welcome the closer relations between Israel and many Arab states. The time has come for normalization and peace.”
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates. He had quote-tweeted an article from The Spectator by Ed Husain. “Islam’s reformation: an Arab-Israeli alliance is taking shape in the Middle East – The Spectator.”
The tweet is an important milestone in Israeli relations with Gulf states. Husain, who was visiting Israel the same weekend, wrote “When Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in 2018 in a gesture of goodwill to Israel’s neighbours, the welcome was not universal. For an Israeli Prime Minister to be warmly greeted in a proud Arab state was, for some, far too much. The Omani foreign minister, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, was asked on Al Jazeera why the visit had been allowed. The reply went viral: ‘Why not? Is it forbidden to us? Israel is a nation among the nations of the Middle East. We should embark on a new journey for the future.’”
He noted “A new narrative is emerging in the Middle East. New maps of the Muslim mind are being drawn and old hatreds are on the run…Islamist leaders are losing their appeal — at a time when Iran, with its brand of theological fascism, poses a threat to Israel and the Arab world alike.” He also noted a religious awakening in tolerance. “King Hamad of Bahrain has also led a path towards more open relations between Islam and Judaism. ” Saudi bloggers are also visiting Israel. There is a divide in the region now between the theocrats and allies of Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood and others, he argues. “It’s well-known that mullahs in Tehran support Hezbollah, which is dedicated to destroying Israel. But they also meddle in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.”
Not everyone agrees. Faysal Itani wrote “This silly idea won’t die. The GCC were not really confrontation states, share no border w Israel, and have a relatively low population. Their regimes are not “The Arabs”. And fear of Iran does not make for an ‘Islamic reformation’.”
There have been a number of achievements in Israel relations with these countries over the last decades. Netanyahu has said Israel regularly speaks to regional countries. The US has pushed a non-aggression pact. Meetings in 2018 hinted at a new era, as well as the US pushing a Bahrain conference. Miri Regev went to the UAE, Israelis have attended conferences in the Gulf. But Iran has also threatened the Gulf powers and there are fears of conflict.
Complex times lie ahead. I’ve written on this issue. Hurdles remain.