Bahrain and Sudan will likely be first to follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead and agree to make peace with Israel, the Israeli intelligence minister said, as momentum toward normalized relations grew on diplomatic and economic fronts.
Israel’s president, building on the drama of the moment, invited the UAE’s de facto leader, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, to visit Jerusalem — a trip that no other senior Gulf leader is known to have made since Israel’s founding.
“I make no secret of my hope that this move will also serve as a beacon, illuminating the road ahead for others,” President Reuven Rivlin wrote in a letter to the royal, who led the UAE peace efforts.
The Gulf Arab state’s agreement with Israel “broke a taboo” that could do just that, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said in an interview.
Asked which countries might be next, he singled out “Gulf states that see Iran as a threat,” Morocco — which has long had informal ties with Israel — and Sudan. Leading the roster will be “Bahrain among the Gulf states and Sudan in Africa because there is already movement there,” with Oman and Saudi Arabia potentially following suit, Cohen said.
Bahrain’s cabinet on Monday praised the pact announced on Thursday as “historic,” and Israeli media have reported on contacts between Bahrain’s prime minister and the chief of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, who played an instrumental role in the breakthrough. Bahrain denied an Israeli report that the men spoke by phone, and Israel declined to comment.
Sudan appeared on Cohen’s list of possibilities after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with its de facto leader, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Uganda in February. In 2018, Netanyahu secretly flew to Oman on the first official trip there by an Israeli leader since 1996, and on Monday, the countries’ foreign ministers spoke by phone.
In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Jared Kushner, the U.S. administration’s top adviser on the Middle East, said “we’re very close to a lot of breakthroughs from the region.”
Israel and UAE Agree to Establish Ties; Annexation Is Paused
The peace overtures were announced on Thursday with great fanfare by theTrump administration. As a condition for agreeing to make peace with Israel, the UAE demanded that the Netanyahu government suspend its plans to annex West Bank territory the Palestinians seek for a state. Kushner told reporters that Netanyahu gave the U.S. verbal assurances that annexation won’t proceed without American consent, and “that’s good enough for us.”
The UAE’s agreement with Israel has been condemned by the Palestinians, who had hoped normalization would only come after the resolution of their conflict with Israel.
Israel Tech Minister Expects UAE Investments in Hi-Tech (Video)
With peace moves heating up, a reporter with Israel radio’s Arabic-language service tweeted that Mossad chief Yossi Cohen had traveled to Abu Dhabi on Monday and would meet Sheikh Mohammed and his younger brother, the national security adviser.
Technology and aviation companies have been announcing tie-up plans. Latest developments include:
- Israel’s technology minister, Izhar Shay, predicted imminent collaboration with the UAE on cyber security and space research
- Israir Airlines Ltd. started applying for a landing permit in the UAE, and Emirates airlines said it was exploring market demand for flights with Israel.
- Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Centers andPluristem Therapeutics Inc., listed in Israel and New York, signed an accord to cooperate on research and development.
The big diplomatic coup for Israel would be normalized ties with Saudi Arabia. Royal court adviser Mohammad al-Tuwaijri said Monday that the kingdom stood behind its 2002 initiative that called for normalized relations only after Israel withdraws from territories occupied in the 1967 war and claimed by the Palestinians for a state. But government-sanction Saudi media published other countries’ praise of the move as well as positive opinion pieces.
“Each country decides based on its interests and not on what the Palestinians or other Arabs want,” wrote Abdulrahman al-Rashed in the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper on Saturday.
The Saudis and Israel have joint interests as close U.S. allies opposed to regional extremists, said Eli Cohen, the Israeli intelligence minister.
“We are on the same side of the playing field and it’s worth our while to enjoy the economic and strategic fruits.”
— With assistance by Donna Abu-Nasr, and Abeer Abu Omar
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