ANALYSIS: Israel at the Center of a New Order in the Middle East

Thursday, November 01, 2018 |  Yochanan Visser

This has been a historical week with events that showed the old Middle Eastern order has ended while Israel is at the center of a new order.

First, there were the visits of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to the Sunni Arab Gulf state Oman and Culture Minister Miri Regev to Abu Dhabi where she attended the International Judo Federation's Grand Slam competition.

Until now, the diplomatic contacts between Israel and Arab states had been hidden for the public with the exception of the relations between Israel, Jordan and Egypt which signed peace agreements at the end  of last century.

Netanyahu’s visit to Oman where he officially discussed the Middle East peace process with Sultan Sayyid Qaboos was the beginning of a series of meetings with Arab leaders the Israeli PM predicted.

His visit to Oman was kept under the rug until he returned to Israel while Israeli media speculated the talks between Qaboos and the Israeli leader had focused on the Iranian threat, not on peace with the Palestinian Arabs.

Omani Foreign Minister Yousuf bin Alawi, however, later made clear that his country had effectively taken over the role of mediator in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs from Saudi Arabia. 

His statement came after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s credibility as interlocutor had suffered a mortal blow due to his role in the assassination of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey almost a month ago.

Although the Omani FM claimed his country wasn’t acting as a mediator between the Palestinian Arabs and Israel the timing of Netanyahu’s visit, which occurred two days after PA leader Mahmoud Abbas conducted talks with Qaboos in Oman suggested otherwise.

Bin Alawi also made clear the time for Arab recognition of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state in the Middle East had arrived while he explained Oman was relying on President Trump’s not yet published new initiative for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.

On Sunday, Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev made history when she became the first Israeli official to tour the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Standing next to two officials of the tiny Arab Gulf State Regev said that the mosque, which is the third largest in the world, conveyed “a message of brotherhood and peace” and wished that the visit would be the beginning of an era of “peace, Shalom and a good life for everyone.”

The Palestinian Authority later condemned Oman and Abu Dhabi for their reconciliation efforts with Israel and said Arab states should stick to the so-called Arab Peace Initiative from 2002 which was in fact a dictate that would have forced Israel to return to the indefensible 1948 armistice lines.

On Monday, the Central Council of Palestinian Liberation Organization, a body from which the Palestinian Authority was born, reacted to the overtures from Sunni Arab states toward Israel by effectively canceling the Oslo accords with the Jewish state.

WAFA, the PA’s mouthpiece, published a statement by the Council which said that the Palestinian leadership had decided to rescind recognition of Israel until it recognizes a Palestinian state based on the 1948 armistice lines with east Jerusalem as its capital.

The PLO body, which is headed by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas also decided to revoke the Oslo Accords and to end security cooperation with Israel and said it would work to reach economic independency and total economic separation from Israel.

The statement said that  "this decision was made in light of Israel's continued denial of the signed agreements" and that the PLO rejected Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” the new initiative for solving the century-old conflict between Arabs and Jews in the land of Israel.

The Council claimed Trump’s initiative would separate the so-called West Bank (Judea and Samaria) from the Gaza Strip and expressed its desire to reach a “truce with the Israeli occupation” a new indication the PLO always saw the Oslo accords as a ‘Hudna’ a temporary cease fire.

It wasn’t the first time this year the Palestinian leadership announced the Oslo Accords were dead.

On January 16, the Council issued a similar statement but this time the body formed a executive committee which is supposed to implement the decision.

The news about the PLO decision was largely ignored by the international media but also by Israeli politicians.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett was one of the few Israeli politicians who reacted to the PLO statement and said that “the charade has ended” meaning the Palestinian Arabs had now “shown their true colors.”

“The Palestinians have never been serious about recognizing Israel. They have always been planning to destroy Israel piece by piece and throw the Jews out of our land,” Bennett stated while adding that the Palestinian leadership cannot have it both ways.

It should decide between “continuing paying salaries of terrorists who kill Israelis” and cooperation with Israel the Bayit HaYehudi chairman added.

PHOTO: Israel Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev being given an official tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, one of the largest and most elaborate mosques in the Arab Muslim world. (HANDOUT/EPA)

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