Israel-Arab ties strengthen

It has been a remarkable few weeks in Middle-Eastern politics. This included the historic visit of Miri Regev, Israeli Sports and Culture Minister, to the third largest mosque in the world (after Mecca and Medina), the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Ms Regev was attending the International Judo Federation’s Abu Dhabi Grand Slam – where, for the first time, Israel’s national anthem played and Israeli athletes were allowed to participate under their national flag.

At about the same time, there was another history-making visit. Prime Minister Netanyahu made an “official diplomatic visit” to Oman. Following that visit Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Oman’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, told a security forum in Bahrain that, “Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this. The world is also aware of this and maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same [as other states] and to also bear the same obligations.”

These meetings also follow the amicable talk between Netyanhu and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September; and comments made by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March, when he told The Atlantic that, “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”

The increasing recognition of Israel and co-operation is at least because of the shared threat posed by Iran. As well as Iran planning attacks in Denmark and France, Iran continues to threaten Israel and the USA and the Gulf States.

It is also likely that Arab nations realise – especially as multiple conflicts continue in Syria– that Israel is not a major threat in the region, and may actually offer some possible solutions to conflict.

The shifting politics will not be seen from UN statements and seldom reported in the NZ news but they are remarkable and historic steps in a volatile region. Hopefully, the relationships will continue to grow and peace will spread.