TEL AVIV – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit this week to meet with the rulers of Oman to discuss regional issues, the first official summit between leaders and a sign of improving relations between Israel and the Arab world To discuss Gulf States. Sir. Netanyahu returned from Oman on Friday afternoon after meeting Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said. The head of the Israeli government said in a statement. He was accompanied by his wife Sara and several high-ranking Israeli officials, including the head of the country's spy agency, Yossi Cohen. A brief statement released by Oman said the meeting between the two leaders took place on Thursday.
Israel has no formal diplomatic relations with Oman or its Arabian golf neighbors. Strengthening relations, in particular on the basis of a shared interest in countering regional rival Iran, was a priority for Netanyahu as prime minister. According to current and former US and Israeli officials, Israel shares some intelligence with Arab Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the US. But the collaboration remained tacit without a solution to the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Netanyahu's office said the visit was a significant step towards his goal of "deepening relations with the states of the region and harnessing Israel's benefits in security, technology and business."
"This is one of the signs of the tectonic shift in the Middle East, where Israel is on the same side of many moderate Arab countries, ready to work together and face security challenges together," said Lior Weintraub, former chief of staff the Israeli Embassy in Washington and now Vice President of the Israeli State
Israeli Prime Minister's Office ha / Shutterstock
For a long time, Oman served as a bridge between the countries of the region, also as a return channel between the US and Iran prior to the talks that led to the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Israel published several photos of the visit, including the two men shaking hands sitting side by side in an ornate conference room looking at a map of the region together. Omani state television showed clips of Mr. Netanyahu and his wife arriving in an Omani royal palace in the capital, Muscat, and both were greeted with a handshake by the Sultan and a large number of officials at the residence.
Mr. Netanyahu and Sultan Qaboos discussed peace and regional stability in the Middle East, said the head of the Israeli government. He visited Oman at the sultan's invitation after Israeli officials had long discussions between the two sides. Netanyahu's visit to Oman comes after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visits Oman at the request of Sultan Qaboos earlier this week, according to the Palestinian News Agency.
The visit is a sign of the deepening relationship between Israel and Oman for further relaxation in the region, but Saudi Arabia and Jordan have more influence on the Palestinians when it comes to squeezing the sides together in peace talks.
Jason Greenblatt, Trump's Special Representative for negotiations and parts of his Middle East peace-building team, will visit Israel for consultations next week.
Following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, there have been initial improvements in relations between Israel and its Arabian golf neighbors. Shimon Peres was the last Israeli leader to visit Oman in 1996, after the countries had signed an agreement to open commercial offices in their respective countries. But in 2000, Oman closed his office in Israel as a result of the second intifada or Palestinian uprising.
Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com