08:14 GMT25 January 2020
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    Rumours of Tel Aviv’s interest in some sort of alliance with the Gulf States began swirling in 2018, when Prime Minister Netanyahu said his country might join an anti-Iranian Arab coalition if Tehran tried to block the southern entrance to the Red Sea.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed his contentment over United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s retweet of a journalist’s analysis about “an Arab-Israeli alliance…taking shape in the Middle East.”

    “I welcome the closer relations between Israel and many Arab states. The time has come for normalization and peace,” Netanyahu tweeted in a dual-language English-Arabic tweet.

    Sheikh Abdullah’s tweet linking to an analysis in The Spectator garnered media attention on Saturday, including 1,600 retweets and over 4,000 likes. The article he linked to, written by former Tony Blair advisor and ex-Council on Foreign Relations fellow Ed Husain, argued that Netanyahu’s 2018 Oman visit could be seen as a watershed moment for Israel’s traditionally difficult relations with many of its Middle Eastern neighbours.

    “A new narrative is emerging in the Middle East. New maps of the Muslim mind are being drawn and old hatreds are on the run. The anti-Semitic craze to destroy Israel was powerful in the 1960s, uniting Egypt’s President Nasser with his fellow Arabs. But now, Sunni Arab neighbours are changing course,” Husain wrote.

    In the article, the journalist commented on improving relations between Islam in Judaism throughout the Gulf states and elsewhere, and argued that part of the warming attitudes may be the joint feeling by leaders in both Israel and the Sunni Arab states about “the need to stand firm against Iran.”

    Israeli Charm Offensive

    Israel has restored full diplomatic ties with only two of its Arab neighbours – Egypt and Jordan, with ties remaining poor with the rest over multiple regional wars, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Israeli military’s targeting of alleged Iranian influence in countries stretching from Syria and Lebanon to Iraq. In recent years, Tel Aviv has attempted to improve ties with some Arab countries, particularly the sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf.

    Last year, Prime Minister Netanyahu made a surprise visit to Oman to meet Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said. Soon after, Israeli cabinet minister Miri Regev visited the UAE, saying history was made as Israel’s national anthem was played on Abu Dhabi soil for the first time ever following a judo competition. The UAE has since invited Israel to participate in Expo 2020 in Dubai. In August 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US has been mediating secret talks between Israeli and UAE officials.

    Rumours of an ‘Arab-Israeli’ pact against Iran began swirling in August 2018, when Netanyahu hinted that Israel could join an Arab coalition if Tehran blocked the Bab al-Mandab Strait, the southern entrance to the Red Sea.

    Iran has expressed strong disapproval of Israeli efforts in forging regional coalitions, including the country's reported participation in a US-led 'maritime security coalition' in the Persian Gulf. In August, Iranian Defence Minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami said the Persian Gulf region "should not be an area for foreigners," warning that Israeli participation in the US-led coalition would be "highly provocative, and could have disastrous consequences for the region." Instead, Tehran has proposed the creation of a regional Gulf 'Coalition of Hope' without US or Israeli participation.

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