OVER the past several days, there has been a flurry of reports concerning Israel and its contacts with Arab and Muslim states.
Last week, it was reported that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu flew into Oman for a secret meeting with Sultan Qaboos; news and pictures of the visit were only made public after Mr Netanyahu was back in Tel Aviv. Following the visit, a senior Omani minister told a conference in Manama that it was time to accept the Zionist state.
Along with these political developments, Israeli competitors and ministers have been in the UAE and Qatar of late as part of sports and cultural activities, with Israel’s flag flying at the venues, along with the playing of its national anthem.
Then, of course, there were reports of an Israeli business jet mysteriously flying into Pakistan; the reports have been vehemently denied by the government, but the rumours refuse to die down.
It would be naive to assume all these developments — especially the growing bonhomie between Tel Aviv and the Gulf Arabs — are mere coincidences.
It is highly likely that both parties are being given a ‘friendly’ nudge by the US to make peace officially (backchannel contacts are a barely kept secret), especially considering that both Israel and the Arabs are under American patronage.
This perception is given credence as senior US officials have welcomed the contacts. If peace — and justice for the Palestinians — are the goals, then there may be no harm in diplomatic initiatives.
However, if there is a sinister plan at work, such as isolating Iran, then there is cause for alarm. Both the US and the Gulf Arabs have no love lost for Tehran, and vice versa, hence the normalisation of Arab-Israeli ties could be linked to further squeezing Iran.
But while geopolitics may be governed by selfish interests rather than morals, it should be remembered that Israel continues to slaughter Palestinians at will. In fact, as Gulf Arabs were posing for pictures with Israeli officials, the Zionist state’s military was busy exterminating Palestinian children in Gaza.
Israel’s behaviour towards Palestinians, especially under the current Likud regime, has been appalling, hence the Arab autocrats will have a tough time explaining the sudden warming of relations with Tel Aviv.
As for Pakistan, considering that this push for rapprochement in the Gulf may be linked to isolating Iran, as well as the repeated violation of Palestinian human rights by Israel, the government needs to proceed very carefully.
Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2018