Benjamin Netanyahu’s Visit to Oman Shows That Improved Relations with Arab States Aren’t Dependent on the Peace Process

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.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-Arab relations, Miri Regev, Oman, United Arab Emirates

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics