Last week, the Israeli prime minister—along with his wife and high-ranking officials—made a state visit to Oman, where they met with the country’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Nor has this been the only recent sign of Israel’s improving relations with the Arab world, as Aaron David Miller and Hillel Zand write:
On Sunday, the [Israeli] sports and culture minister Miri Regev . . . became the first senior Israeli official to visit Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The same day, after years of being forbidden to display national symbols at Gulf sporting events, the Israeli national anthem played when the Israeli judo team won a gold medal at the International Judo Federation’s Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi. Next week, Israel’s intelligence and transportation minister Yisrael Katz will visit Oman and its communications minister Ayoub Kara will visit Abu Dhabi. An Israeli gymnastics team is also currently competing in Qatar.
These moments of soft diplomacy appear to be bearing fruit for Israel’s foreign-policy agenda. After Netanyahu’s visit, Oman’s foreign minister stated, “Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this. The world is also aware of this fact.”. . .
The Arab world’s new openness to Israel is driven in part by increasing impatience and annoyance with the Palestinians. . . . Add to this the Arab states’ fear of Iran and Sunni jihadists, and a desire to please the Trump administration—and suddenly it’s obvious that Israel and its neighbors are bound by common interests. . . .
The upshot of all of this isn’t that the Arab world is moving at breakneck speed to desert the Palestinians, or to normalize ties with Israel fully. But Netanyahu appears to be dealing with an Arab world ready to engage incrementally with Israel despite the fact that a peace deal is not forthcoming. In a volatile and combustible Middle East, the prime minister should enjoy his thaw while it lasts.