In another sign the recent visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Arab nation of Oman could be a turning point in regional affairs, Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said sent a letter addressing Netanyahu’s visit to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The letter was delivered in person on Wednesday by Oman’s Foreign Minister, Yousef bin Alawi, according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency.
The Oman News Agency reported that the letter provided an update on efforts on pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Notably, the Palestinian report said nothing about the peace process, with the Palestinians repeatedly rejecting out of hand a-yet-to-be-revealed peace plan by the Americans.
However, the Middle East region in general seems to approve of Netanyahu’s visit. Israeli Prime Minister spokesman Ofir Gendelman reposted on Twitter a poll in Arabic by RT Arabic—a Russian Arabic news group—showing noticeably positive feelings about the Israeli trip to Oman. Tweeted Gendelman, “There’s considerable Arab popular support for PM Netanyahu’s historic visit to Oman. In this online survey, 66% said the visit served ARAB interests. Over 49,000 people participated.”
The visit comes as the United States is touting the unusual visit by an Israeli leader to an Arab country as relevant to Israel, the Palestinians and regional relations in general. United States spokesperson Robert Palladino on Tuessday said, “This marked a helpful step in all of our efforts to strengthen relationships across the region and build a brighter future for Israel, the Palestinians, and all of their neighbors.”
Palladino, whose comments to reporters were published by the State Department, applauded the visit—noting that Netanyahu was received not only by Oman’s leader, but also by senior members of the Omani government. “We commend the Sultan’s initiative in issuing this invitation and opening this dialogue,” said Palladino.
Still, it will be an uphill climb to bring the Palestinians into peace talks. On Wednesday, Palladino was quoted by the State Department as having to refute claims from long-time chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat that the US and Israel were working together to separate out Gaza from the rest of the Palestinians. The Ma’an News Agency quoted Erekat as calling it a plot, “in order to kill the Palestinian national project.”
In response, Palladino noted that while Gaza and the other Palestinians are actually separated now, “Our peace plan intends to bring them together. Make no mistake, we are in this to help all Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza. The type of disinformation being spread by some parties who have not even seen the plan yet wish to be spoilers and does nothing to benefit ordinary Palestinian lives.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, October 31, 2018)