05:26 GMT +323 March 2019
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    A general view shows the Dome of the Rock (C) and the Al-Aqsa mosques (R) in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's old city on November 21, 2014

    Israel Relaunches 'Virtual Embassy' Amid Thaw With Persian Gulf States

    © AFP 2019 / THOMAS COEX
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    The development comes following years of speculation that Israel has been maintaining secret contacts with Persian Gulf States despite the fact that none of them recognise the Jewish state's right to exist or have official diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv.

    Israel has re-launched a "virtual embassy" in order to "promote dialogue" with the Persian Gulf states, the "Israel in the Gulf" account tweeted.

    "We are pleased to announce the re-launch of the 'Israel in the [Persian] Gulf' page to promote dialogue between Israel and the Gulf nations. We hope that this virtual embassy will contribute to deepening understanding between the peoples of the Gulf states and the people of Israel in various fields", the tweet reads.

    The "Israel in the Gulf" Twitter page was first launched in mid-2013, but ceased its activity just a year later.

    READ MORE: Netanyahu Says Oman Allowed Israeli Planes to Use Country's Airspace

    Even though Israel has no diplomatic ties with the Gulf States, multiple media outlets have consistently reported top-secret meetings between senior officials. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has himself once admitted that Israel had "fruitful cooperation with Arab countries" that it kept generally secret.

    According to Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, Tel Aviv has had secret contacts with a range of Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, while the IDF Chief of Staff suggested sharing intelligence with Riyadh to resist Iran.

    Israel’s Arabic-language MAKAN 33 public television network reported that Gadi Eisenkot, former IDF chief of staff, secretly travelled twice last November to the United Arab Emirates to meet with high-ranking officials.

    According to the outlet, President of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), said that Eisenkot had met with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and a handful of senior Emirati military officials.

    READ MORE: Iran Accuses Israel of Seeking to Divide Muslim States as Netanyahu Visits Oman

    The AIPAC official further claimed that the two sides had clinched an agreement on the sale of Israeli military hardware to the UAE. The Israeli side also allegedly agreed to make preparations for the visit of Emirati officers to Israel.

    In addition, Netanyahu visited Oman in late October, where he met Sultan Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said in the coastal city of Seeb near the capital Muscat. The Jerusalem Post reported that the two had discussed ways to promote the Middle East peace process as well as matters of mutual interest.

    The prime minister's visit to Oman came on the same day that Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev visited the UAE to accompany Israel’s judo team at the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, becoming the first Israeli minister to visit the Emirates in an official capacity.

    The welcome for the Israeli athletes also marked a significant change from 2017, when UAE organisers had banned Israel from displaying its flag or playing its anthem during the tournament when one of its athletes was awarded a medal.

    READ MORE: Egypt, Saudi Arabia Urge Arab Nations to Develop Ties With Israel – Report

    Currently, seven Arab states of the Persian Gulf — Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — do not recognise Israel and have no official diplomatic relations. However, Riyadh has seemingly changed its viewpoint: in April 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman dropped a bombshell, saying that the kingdom had no "problem with Jews" and shared "a lot of interests with Israel". He also underscored that both Israeli and Palestinians are entitled to their own land.

    Related:

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    Tags:
    diplomatic thaw, diplomatic ties, embassy, diplomatic relations, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Benjamin Netanyahu, UAE, Iran, Israel, Persian Gulf, Oman, Saudi Arabia
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