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President Donald Trump, Crown Prince and head of state of Abu Dhabi Mohamed bin Zayed, and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speculation grows as to the next Arab nation to sign Israel peace deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told American news outlets last week that he has been speaking with leaders from Arab countries in addition to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) following the American-mediated peace deal announced last week between the two countries.

He stated that he spoke with political leaders in Oman and “other countries,” and that the key to such discussions is discretion.

President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien stated that Saudi Arabia may be the next country to form a peace agreement with Israel, following the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel signed last week, known as the Abraham Accord.

“We are making history, and we are changing history,” Netanyahu claimed. “It is good for the United States and it is good for Israel.”

Fox News anchor Eric Shawn praised the deal with the UAE and said that it is impressive that The Jerusalem Post is now accessible in the country.

READ: Historic bombshell – Israel and the UAE

“This is peace of the strong and I think peace of the hopeful for the future,” Netanyahu said.

He later spoke about the current regional tensions surrounding Iran and stated, “Iran is committing murder… throughout the Middle East. It’s everywhere, sowing mayhem.”

Netanyahu then criticized the United Nations’ decision not to extend the Iran arms embargo, as pushed forth by the US.

 

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia could be the next likely peace partner as it already has significant military and intelligence cooperation with Israel as both countries combat regional threat Iran.

In an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, O’Brien responded to questions about whether Saudi Arabia might be the next to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. Asked about Saudi Arabia, O’Brien said, “Look, it’s possible that they could be next.”

“I think the UAE is not the only country here,” UAE foreign minister Anwar Gargash told the Atlantic Council Thursday while discussing his country’s recent agreement with Israel. He alluded to Saudi Araabia and others. “There are several Arab countries that are on this scale in different stages.”

That prediction aligns with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s stated hope that the deal unveiled last week “will be the first in a series of agreements” between the Jewish state and Arab neighbors. Israel and the Gulf countries have improved informal relations in recent years in light of their common perception of Iranian threats, but the Arab nations traditionally have identified ties with Israel as the reward for a “comprehensive peace agreement” between the Jewish state and the Palestinians.

“Saudi Arabia remains committed to peace as a strategic option based on the Arab Peace Plan and relevant international resolutions enabling the Palestinian people to establish their own state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al Saud said.

“The three great holy sites in Islam, as you know, Chuck, are Mecca, Medina, and the king of Saudi Arabia is the keeper of those two sites,” O’Brien continued. “But the other site is the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and King Hussein of Jordan and Jordan supervises that. One of the great things about this agreement is you’re now going to have direct flights from those fantastic airports, both in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, into Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv.”

O’Brien said he hopes the latest deal between Israel and the UAE serves as a “confidence builder” for pilgrimages from Arab countries to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“I’m hoping that King Salman and MBS, Mohammed bin Salman, see that development and realize that this would be great for Saudi Arabia, it would be great for the Arab people and for the Islamic world as well,” O’Brien continued. “So, we’re hopeful. We’ll have to see what happens, but we’re talking to a number of countries in addition to Saudi Arabia.”

To date, only three Islamic countries have signed formal peace agreements with Israel. Those countries include Egypt, Jordan and, most recently, the United Arab Emirates.

The new agreement between Israel and the UAE puts a pause on Israeli efforts re-assert authority of its historical biblical heartland known to Jews and Christians as Judea and Samaria, an area in which the Palestinian Authority has contested with Israel for control. Under the new agreement, Israel will abide by the terms of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal proposed by Trump in January. The January proposal lays out a possible map for how to divide areas contested by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but further negotiations would have to take place between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Asked about whether the Trump administration supports Israel in annexing the West Bank, O’Brien said, “The contours of the West Bank have to be decided by the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

O’Brien said there are parts of the West Bank that Israel would like to have and there are parts of the West Bank that Palestinians would like to have.

During his remarks, O’Brien credited the Trump administration, which he said “quarterbacked” much of the Israel-UAE agreement. He also credited Israeli Prime Minister  Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for their “courage” in reaching the agreement.

Other interested countries

In addition to Saudi Arabia, speculation about which Arab countries might follow suit for peace with Israel has centered on Bahrain, the Gulf island nation that hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

“I think that Bahrain and Oman are definitely on the agenda,” Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said this week. “In addition, in my assessment, there is a chance that already in the coming year there will be a peace deal with additional countries in Africa, chief among them, Sudan.”

Gargash noted that the regional response to the agreement fell out along predictable lines, with criticism coming from the Palestinians and countries such as Iran and Turkey that already have fraught relations with the Gulf states. “We took a risk, and we were criticized by the same group or grouping more or less of countries that are critical of what the UAE does and is doing,” Gargash said. “We cannot be also prisoners of rhetoric, very high rhetoric, and at the same time, stagnation and inaction on the Palestinian issue.”

Morocco is home to around 3,000 Jews –  the largest Jewish community of any Arab country. Some 300,000 Jews emigrated from the North African country as a result of unrest over the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Morocco already has robust tourist and trade relations with Israel as well as intelligence cooperation.

According to Israel’s KAN public broadcaster, Morocco is likely to ask for U.S. recognition of its sovereignty over the Western Sahara territory, which it annexed in 1975, in exchange for normalizing ties with Israel.

The report added Rabat is seeking to strengthen ties with its American ally.

Rabat has had a close relationship with Jerusalem for decades. They had close defense and security ties as well as a significant level of social openness, with tens of thousands of Israelis visiting Morocco and thousands of Moroccans visiting Israel annually. Moreover, many Israelis have Moroccan roots, and 10 Israeli ministers are of Moroccan descent. Morocco has allowed all its citizens to retain their citizenship, and views Israelis of Moroccan descent as Moroccans.

Diplomatic relations at the liaison office level between Israel and Morocco have been broken off, however, since October 2000. As Israel’s economic powerhouse grows on the world stage. Before covid, it was on track to break into the top tier of the world’s $500 billion economies in the next several years. It currently outpaces many European nations and other Western powers such as New Zealand.

The future

Whether President Donald Trump is elected in November, historians and diplomats say the peace deal brokered by the U.S. between Israel and the UAE will go down as one of the greatest foreign policy successes of the last 40 years. If Saudi Arabia or other arab nations were also to join, it could be an achievement not seen since the end of World War II.

–Metro Voice and several wire services

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