Analysis: Oman sends revolutionary message about Israel to Arab states

The time has come to accept the Jewish state, the Arab Gulf kingdom says.

By Daniel Krygier, World Israel News

Following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent historic visit to Oman, the Arab Gulf kingdom says that it is time to accept the Jewish state. 

“Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this. The world is also aware of this and maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same [as other states] and to also bear the same obligations,” said Omani Foreign Minister Yousuf bin Alawi at a regional security summit in Bahrain.

These simple words would be considered unremarkable in most international relations. But in a Middle East that still largely rejects Israel’s existence, this straightforward message is nothing less than revolutionary.

Netanyahu’s visit to Oman was the first visit of an Israeli Prime Minister in more than 20 years.

The late Shimon Peres visited the Gulf kingdom in 1996, in an era characterized by a premature Oslo Process optimism.  Until quite recently, diplomats in Israel and elsewhere claimed that normalizing Israel’s ties with the Arab world depended on peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

What is the source behind this thinking? For a start, the Palestinian Liberation Organization insisted that it have the last word on relations between Arab states and Israel. Due to popular and widespread support for PLO throughout the Arab world, Arab regimes generally fell in line.

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Oman, though comparatively moderate by Mideast standards, bowed to PLO demands and agreed to withhold its own acceptance of Israel until a green light came from Ramallah. The go-ahead was never given. Neither PLO Chief Yasser Arafat nor his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, had normalization in mind.

Quite the contrary. Ramallah pocketed all the political and financial benefits of the Oslo Peace Process while it continued to demonize Jews and advocate for Israel’s destruction. Until this day, Ramallah’s regime remains mired in a modus operandi that prevents peace.

Changing Arab priorities

Arabs in nearby nations have moved on, focusing on bread-and-butter issues. For decades, Arab regimes conveniently blamed Israel for their self-inflicted socioeconomic problems. These excuses no longer hold water. Arab states like Jordan and Egypt see the Arab-Israel conflict as an unwelcome distraction as they struggle to address the demands of their own populations. 

Simultaneously, the destabilizing imperial ambitions of Iran’s Shiite Muslim regime threaten the ruling elites of the predominantly Sunni Muslim Arab states. They see that Israel is no longer their enemy, but  a valuable ally against Iran.

With its powerful military and intelligence services, Israel is the only regional power capable of thwarting the Iranian regime’s aggression. The Jewish state also offers valuable technologies and business opportunities for the traditional low-tech Arab economies.

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In its call for regional recognition with Israel, Oman sends the message to its Arab neighbors: Get your priorities straight.

Oman boosts Netanyahu’s proposition that normalization with the Arab world could eventually lead to peace with the Palestinian Arabs and not the other way around.