Oman May Not Join the Abraham Accords Anytime Soon, but Its Relationship with Israel Is Improving

September 20, 2022 | Yoav Limor
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Like many Arab nations, the Persian Gulf sultanate of Oman has no formal relations with the Jewish state, and those with Israeli passports are generally barred from entry. Yet its covert ties with Jerusalem date to the 1970s, and in recent years these ties have become increasingly public. Yoav Limor, after returning from several days touring Oman—using a non-Israeli passport—praises the country as a tourist destination, and comments on its place in the Arab world:

Oman is very different than the rest of the Middle East. You won’t hear people shout or swear or honk. Everything is calm and everyone is courteous.

This is perhaps why the sultanate doesn’t usually grab the media spotlight. Compared to its flashy neighbors like the UAE and Qatar, Oman is more modest. But underneath this veneer, there lies a country that is definitely worth a visit—perhaps more so than any other Gulf destination.

Oman lies on the eastern part of the Persian Gulf. . . . It has also been influenced to a large degree by India and Pakistan and by the legacy left behind by the British, whose decades-long rule ended in full only in 1971. It belongs to the Gulf Cooperation Council alongside Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait, but unlike those countries, it espouses neutrality. That’s why it refused to join the Saudi-led coalition to fight the Houthi rebels in Yemen. This allowed it to enjoy a peaceful border on that flank.

This is also why Oman has not joined the Abraham Accords, and probably won’t do so in the foreseeable future. However, beneath the surface, it has maintained good relations with Israel, which have been managed by Mossad. Efraim Halevy, who was Mossad director, . . . visited the sultanate for the first time in 1974. Since then, the Mossad chiefs have visited this place quite often, but not only them. Yitzḥak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Benjamin Netanyahu all visited Oman as prime ministers. Various cabinet ministers and government officials also visited Muscat when Israel-Arab relations flourished (such as during the heyday of the Oslo Accords), but also when things turned south in the region.

Recently the two countries have seen an uptick in cross-border engagements.

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