Netanyahu’s visit to Oman opens new chapter

Through this visit, Oman ended the secrecy shrouding covert relations.
Saturday 03/11/2018
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets with Oman’s  Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said in Muscat. (Twitter)
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said in Muscat. (Twitter)

Information about Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Oman is scarce, not even enough to speculate and make prognoses, which would, for the most part, end up being incorrect anyway.

Oman is itself a mystery, so whoever ventures to examine its policies under the assumption that they are clear is likely to make mistakes. Given the absence of facts, it becomes easy to accept misunderstandings as plausible explanations.

Why not believe, for example, that Muscat is playing a direct role in preparing for a fundamental shift in approaching and dealing with the Palestinian question? The Palestinians themselves did not protest the public meeting between Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said and Netanyahu. Are they not concerned about it?

The visit was symbolic. Perhaps there was not even an agenda for the meeting. Perhaps there were not deliberations at all. What was achieved by the visit, however, is much more important than what can be produced by any set agenda or negotiation.

Through this visit, Oman ended the secrecy shrouding covert relations. Israel has progressed in its political incursions into what was, until recently, taboo. The two sides reached a position that goes beyond formal normalisation to what can be called “issue-driven exchange of expertise.”

All of this is happening within the framework of a relationship between an Arab side and an Israeli side that none of them can afford to ignore the zone of contention separating them. At the centre of the zone is the Palestinian cause, an extremely sensitive nerve and a historical wound.

It is true that Oman does not have what could be a solutions package to offer Israel nor does Israel have anything beyond what is already known to the Palestinian leadership. It is also true that the two parties have alternative political visions that could leapfrog the status quo and its assumptions to end what has become an absurd situation that the region is no longer able to sustain.

The issue is not about realpolitik as much as it is about rationality. Therefore, it is probable, amid the prevailing secrecy, that Netanyahu’s visit to Muscat could lead to a fundamental shift in the way the Palestinian issue is approached by both the Arab and the Israeli sides.

Such a transformation is what the entire region needs to go beyond empty slogans and petty biddings that have saturated the region with mines, explosives, suicide bombers, deceived martyrs and innocent victims and that have given militias and armed terrorist groups a free pass to enable them to dominate societies and blow them up from within.

It is in the best interest of Israel to be able to count on stable conditions surrounding it so that it can take a serious step forward and be assured that it won’t be wasted.

This issue was the crux of the matter. Netanyahu’s visit to Oman can only be some formal announcement of the gist of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations through the mediation of Muscat.

When commentators go imagining an Omani mediation between the United States and Iran through an Israeli channel, they are being unrealistic and illogical.

Suppose we move beyond incongruous questions of the type: Can Israel save Iran from American sanctions? What we need to ask about instead is Oman’s interest in defending Iranian militia hooliganism in the region so that it would justify that Oman approaches Israel about accepting a project that can only be described as destructive to the region.

Oman cannot logically accept and tolerate that Iran poses a direct threat to peace and stability in the region by backing armed militias in four Arab countries. This situation also does not sit well with Israel’s need to feel safe in the region.

Furthermore, what could Iran offer Israel so that the latter agrees to let the former remain in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria?

We must not fall into the trap of a useless adolescent revolutionary impulse and underestimate the Israeli mind. Surely, the Iranian regime, no matter how skilful it is in the art of deception, cunning and wiliness, cannot convince the Israelis that by being their neighbour, it will help them realise the dreams of their ancestors from the time Alexander invaded Babylon. The Sultanate of Oman, known for the wisdom of its policies, would not venture into such a hopeless project.

When Sultan Qaboos accepted the meeting with Netanyahu, it was to open a new chapter in the history of the region.