JERUSALEM – The Sultanate of Oman will be the next Arab country to normalize relations with Israel, an Israeli diplomatic source told ALL ISRAEL NEWS on Tuesday.
The deal will almost certainly be announced after the Nov. 3 elections in the U.S., the source said, while not ruling it out the possibility it could come sooner.
This news comes as President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday that five more Arab states will join the Abraham Accords after the elections, with four or five more Arab and Muslim states to follow after that.
Oman’s imminent decision is intriguing, given its long-standing role as peace-maker and intermediary between the Arab world, the West and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Oman has assiduously maintained close relations with all, though its loyalty has always been the Gulf Cooperation Council of fellow Arab states, certainly not the mullahs in Tehran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a dramatic and highly-publicized visit to Muscat, the capital of Oman, on Oct. 25, 2018.
Netanyahu met with then-Sultan Qaboos Bin Said.
The two leaders discussed “ways to advance the peace process in the Middle East, as well as several matters of joint interest regarding the achievement of peace and stability in the Middle East,” they said in a joint statement.
Traveling with Netanyahu and his wife at the time were Mossad director Yossi Cohen, National Security Council director Meir Ben-Shabbat, Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem, Netanyahu Chief of Staff Yoav Horowitz, and his military secretary, Brigadier-General Avi Bluth.
These were the first significant signs that a normalization deal might be in the works.
The small Gulf nation of only 5 million people, however, was never going to be the next Arab nation after Jordan to announce such an agreement. It was always going to need the cover of other countries to go ahead of them.
When the 79-year old Sultan died in January of this year, Netanyahu immediately sent condolences to the people of Oman and praised Qaboos as “an outstanding leader who worked tirelessly to advance peace and stability in our region,” noting that “under his leadership, Oman became a significant and advanced country.”
Qaboos ruled for nearly 50 years, having taken the throne when he was only 29 years old.
Netanyahu also hailed Oman’s new leader as a man of peace.
“I congratulate the new Sultan, Haitham bin Tariq, on his appointment and his remarks that Oman's foreign policy and its work for peace in the region would continue.”
Born in 1955, Haitham is the cousin of the late Sultan.
Qaboos had no heir, but in a letter to his family named Haitham to be his successor.
A graduate of Oxford, Haitham most recently served as the minister of Heritage and Culture. He served in various capacities in the Foreign Ministry for 16 years. A soccer enthusiast, he once served as the head of the Oman Football Association.
Sultan Haitham bin Tariq immediately signaled he would maintain his predecessor’s foreign policy and look for ways to advance peace in the region, a positive signal that a normalization deal with Israel was increasingly possible.
“We will follow the path of the late sultan,” Haitham said in his first address to the nation.
He explained that “our country's foreign policy of peaceful living among nations and peoples” and “not interfering in the internal affairs of others, respecting nations' sovereignty and international cooperation” were the hallmarks of Omani foreign policy and culture.
Haitham also stressed that he wanted to “promote peaceful solutions” to the region’s challenges.
The decisions by three Arab states in the last three months – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan – to normalize relations with Israel has now opened the door for Oman to do the same.
Now the question is whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is also one of the countries President Trump believes will make peace with Israel.
The buzz about a Saudi-Israel deal is certainly growing here in the region.
Recent polling shows 79 percent of Saudis see a pathway to normalizing relations with the Jewish State, while 71 percent said such a peace deal is “likely.”
On Sunday, Israel’s Channel 12 reported in Hebrew that Mossad chief Yossi Cohen is telling colleagues that the Saudis are waiting until after the election to make their announcement.
Using unnamed sources, the Post clarified that Cohen did not necessarily believe that a Saudi announcement would be made immediately after the elections, as the Channel 12 story implied.
Rather, Cohen believes that depending on who wins the American presidency, Riyadh will chart its path forward, including its timing, and this could differ significantly based on who wins.
Trump has championed a strong and ever-closer U.S.-Saudi alliance.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, however, recently vowed to “reassess” the U.S.-Saudi relationship if he is elected, ALL ARAB NEWS has reported.
Speaking to reporters at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One on Tuesday, Trump was asked if more Arab states are ready to join the Abraham Accords to make peace with Israel.
“Yes, we have five, but we probably have nine or ten that are in the mix,” Trump said.
“We have five definites,” he added a moment later, “and I think we’ll have another five pretty much definites, too.
Then asked if these would take place before or after the U.S. elections.
“Largely after,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of work right now – I’m involved in all of those deals.”
Trump then tweeted out a 1:09 minute video clip of the interview to his 87.3 million Twitter followers.
“The beauty is this is peace in the Middle East with no money, no blood – there’s no blood all over the sand,” the president explained.
He said he had “great respect” for UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, praising him as a “great warrior” who was willing to make peace with Israel.
Praising Bahrain’s King Hamad, as well, for signing the Abraham Accords, Trump singled out Sudan for special praise.
“Sudan – that was a great get because, as you know, there’s been tremendous hostility with Israel” in the past, he said.
Sudan was led by a radical Islamist president until 2019.
For many years, it had been the home of Osama bin Laden and the base camp for the al Qaeda terror movement until they moved to Afghanistan, welcomed in by the Taliban.
Sudan was aligned for many years with Iran.
Its capital, Khartoum, was also the site of the infamous Arab League Summit after the 1967 war with Israel in which the united Arab world declared its “Three Noes” – no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiation with Israel.
“We’re very excited” about the Arab-Israeli peace deals we are brokering, Trump said, noting that his strategy to advance peace in the Middle East has been entirely different from his predecessors.
“We did it a much different way that it had been done over the past 30 years.”
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.