Israel’s Secret, and Not-So-Secret, Friends in the Arab World

April 2, 2020 | Clive Jones
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One of the big stories to come out of the Middle East in the past decade has been the warming relations between Jerusalem and a number of Arab states, brought together by shared concerns over the growing power of Iran. But these informal, quiet alliances go back much further, explains Clive Jones:

[W]e can trace Israel’s ties to Oman back to the mid-1970s, when Israel offered and provided advice to Sultan Qaboos on border security, when he was faced with the Marxist-oriented Dhofar Rebellion. Israel provided intelligence based on its own experience of securing its borders against the PLO cross-border attacks from Jordan.

The real benchmark, [however], was the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, which allowed the opening of low-level ties between Israel and many Gulf countries. Of course, these ties fell into disarray following the outbreak of the second intifada. Nonetheless, the opening of low-level ties after Oslo set a precedent for further interactions in the future, and even when some Gulf states such as Oman and Qatar [felt compelled] to suspend ties, institutional links often continued in order to maintain diplomatic dialogue.

In the longer term, these links have another dynamic: Israel has proved to the Gulf states, based on its own performance against its external threats, that it is willing to take on what is seen as Iranian aggression and aggrandizement in Lebanon and Syria, demonstrating that it is a partner in curbing Iranian military influence throughout the region. [Thus] many Gulf states who see Israel as more reliable than the Trump administration, whose unpredictability means that Gulf states cannot be sure of what the medium- to long-term U.S. policy in the Middle East and Gulf region is going to look like.

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