Oman calls on Arabs to ease Israel's 'fears for its future'

Omani ministers remarks came on sidelines of the World Economic Forum hosted by Jordan on the shores of the Dead Sea

Reuters April 06, 2019
Oman's minister of foreign affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah (C) caused a stir in Jordan when he told a panel that Arabs must help ease Israel's "fears for its future'. PHOTO: AFP

SUWEIMEH, JORDAN: A top Omani government official on Saturday said Arabs must take initiatives to make Israel overcome "fears for its future" in the region, drawing criticism from Jordan.

The remarks by Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the minister responsible for foreign affairs in Oman, came on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum hosted by Jordan on the shores of the Dead Sea.

"The West has offered Israel political, economic and military support and it now holds all the means of power... but despite that it fears for its future as a non-Arab country surrounded by 400 million Arabs," he said.

"I believe that we Arabs must be able to look into this issue and try to ease those fears that Israel has through initiatives and real deals between us and Israel," he told a panel discussing geopolitics.

The panel's moderator, journalist Hadley Gamble, interrupted him to ask if the best solution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "recognising Israel and its right to exist".

The minister said no.

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"Not recognising, but we want them themselves to feel that there are no threats to their future."

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, whose country is the only Arab nation along with Egypt to have a peace treaty with Israel, dismissed the remarks saying "the issue is that there is an occupation" of Arab land.

"The Arab world has recognised Israel's right to exist. The Palestinians themselves recognised the Israeli right to exist... that is not the issue," Safadi told the panel.

"The issue is that there is an occupation. Is this occupation going to end or not?

Israel, Safadi said, must "withdraw from Arab lands occupied since 1967 and allow" the creation of a Palestinian state. "This is the issue," he said.

"If they (Israel) say they are not comfortable, that is not my problem," said Safadi.

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"The problem is not with Arabs giving assurances... the problem is with Israel doing what is right for peace," he added.

"Israel... is not doing the right thing. Actually it is doing more of the wrong things by suffocating Palestinians," the Jordanian foreign minister said, referring to the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.

"Gaza, is probably as you heard many times, the world's largest prison," he added.

In recent months, Israel has been courting Gulf Arab states.

In February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met one-on-one with Bin Alawi at an international conference in Warsaw, attended by officials from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

In October last year, Netanyahu held surprise talks with Oman's Sultan Qaboos in Muscat -- raising Palestinian fears of a normalisation of ties.

Last year Bin Alawi told a regional conference in Bahrain it might be "time for Israel to be treated the same (as states in the Middle East) and also bear the same obligations".

Bahrain endorsed the remarks which at the time were said to be aimed at moving the Israeli-Palestinian "narrative from intractability to a new focus of pragmatism".

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