What Next After Netanyahu’s Visit to Muscat?

What Next After Netanyahu’s Visit to Muscat?

Sunday, 28 October, 2018 - 12:45
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.
The nonchalant reactions of the Arab public and media to the Omani announcement that they received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Muscat illustrates how much the region has changed. Israeli activity has exceeded political meetings and delved into other areas such as economics and sports, and is repeating this in a number of Arab countries, so is it the end of this forbidden relationship?

I think so. The non-pragmatic way of dealing with the conflict has harmed the Palestinians and hasn’t deterred the Israelis.

The Arab culture of rejecting relations and normalization with Israel is deeply rooted and still alive, but what’s new is that it is no longer the engine moving the policies of Arab governments, which they used to throw around like a ball against each other.

The Sultanate of Oman has done well by handling things with clarity and openness, and because Oman is not part of regional conflicts, none of these governments pointed their media artillery against them, despite the frankness of the visit that included a number of ministers who went with Netanyahu.

What happened behind the scenes of the visit is still unknown, and what was said about the Omani mediation between the Palestinians and the Israelis is unlikely, given that Egypt is taking up this task. So does it have to do with the Iranian-Israeli file? Maybe, given that Oman is trusted by both sides as an honest broker.

Iran is living its worst time on both fronts. It was hit in Syria, US sanctions have returned and it will be crowned by more sanctions on oil and dollar transactions in only a week’s time. The very important development is Israel’s growing role in the region as a result of the Syrian civil war and the entry of Iran and its militias into areas considered by Israel as its security belt.

Israel has played an important role in hitting Iran’s growing influence in Syria. It took up roles that rejecting Arab countries couldn’t achieve. With this, military balance in the region was achieved, and Israel became integral to regional security after it was once considered a poisonous apple that everyone avoided dealing with.

The Syrian war changed the equation when Israel became an involved party. In addition to Turkey and Russia, Iran’s strong involvement in the war is what prompted Israel to enter and become a major player, especially when both the US and Turkey failed in the face of the Iranian regime’s expansion and hegemony in Syria, after it was clear that it is building an empire with chaotic militias.

Even those who reject Israel in the context of the Palestinian cause found themselves compelled to welcome the intervention of Israeli air forces which dramatically changed the situation in Syria and curbed Iranian threats in the region.

Israel imposed itself on the heart of the region’s military camps, and without its intervention, stopping Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ expansion that succeeded on the back of Russian military and political presence would not have been possible.

Is Iran increasing its understanding with Israel and reassuring it through intermediaries, or is it Israel that wants to deliver its messages to Tehran, given that Israel influences US decision-making and policies that are steadfast on boycotting the Iranian regime and choking it economically?

These are important changes in the region, and they will not stop with the activities of the Israeli leaders in Muscat. It is actually the start of a political division built on conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

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