Mossad chief-turned covert diplomat Yossi Cohen is planning a whirlwind trip across the Middle East to quietly meet with moderate Sunni Arab leaders to personally try to convince them to temper their opposition to Israel’s plans to take control over about a third of the West Bank, the Jerusalem Post has reported.
Cohen, known for his quiet diplomacy, reportedly already travelled to Egypt late last month to meet with senior Egyptian government and intelligence officials to discuss Israel’s West Bank plans and the Palestinians’ possible reaction.
Before that, Cohen travelled to Qatar, and established contacts with Saudi Arabia other Gulf states. Only two Arab nations – Egypt and Jordan, enjoy normalised diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv, while neighbours Syria and Lebanon, as well as Iraq, the Gulf nations, Libya and others have yet to do so following multiple Arab-Israeli wars and disagreements over the treatment of the Palestinians.
Multiple countries have now warned Netanyahu against moving forward with his West Bank plans. Late last week, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn called the plans “a gross violation of international law” and suggested that the EU should recognise Palestinian statehood in response. Before that, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas travelled to Israel personally to warn officials that there would be “consequences” if the Jewish State moved forward. More than a dozen Western embassies sent notes of protests to the Israeli government, saying that if implemented, Israel’s initiative would destroy the chances of regional peace, and harm Tel Aviv’s standing before the rest of the world. Russia, for its part, has indicated that it would see annexation as “a very dangerous development” which would “cross out the prospects of a Palestinian-Israeli settlement and provoke a new round of violence.”
Jordan has warned that it would be forced to reconsider the 1994 peace treaty with Israel, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that East Jerusalem will no longer be found by agreements with Israel and the US, including those related to security matters. The United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, says annexation would undermine broader Arab-Israeli rapprochement beyond the Palestinian issue.
Netanyahu has vowed to move forward with the initiative, with the Trump administration pledging its support. On Sunday, on President Trump's 74th birthday, the Israeli prime minister announced that "practical steps" were being taken to move forward with the construction of the so-called 'Trump Heights' settlement in the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.