Bahrain and Oman next countries to establish official ties with Israel

JERUSALEM (Agencies): Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben-Shabbat, to coordinate the preparations for talks with the United Arab Emirates following yesterday’s normalization deal announcement, the PMO says.

Once again, the Gabi Ashkenazi’s (Blue and White) Foreign Ministry appears to be left out of an issue that would typically be part of its portfolio.

Also, an Israeli delegation will travel to the United Arab Emirates early next week to meet with the Gulf state’s top leadership, according to a Friday report, a day after the two nations announced an agreement to normalize relations.

Channel 12 news said a senior Israeli official would lead the team, while the Ynet news site reported this would be Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, who is said to have led normalization efforts over the past year.

Some aspects of the normalization agreement may be signed during the visit, Channel 12 said. It also said the sides would schedule a meeting between the leaders of the two nations to take place within the next few weeks.

Also, Netanyahu thanks Oman, Bahrain, Egyptian leader for supporting UAE deal

Netanyahu thanks several Arab countries and leaders for publicly supporting Israel’s normalization pact with the United Arab Emirates announced yesterday.

“I thank Egyptian President [Abdel-Fattah] el-Sissi and the governments of Oman and Bahrain for their support of the historic peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which is expanding the circle of peace and will be good for the entire region,” Netanyahu says in a statement.

Meanwhile on Friday the UAE’s Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said the positive reactions to the agreement from around the world were “encouraging.”

A senior Israeli official told the Kan public broadcaster that Bahrain was expected to be the next country to establish official ties with Israel, while a senior American official told Palestinian media that Bahrain and Oman were both expected to normalize ties in the near future.

According to Israeli sources, Thursday’s breakthrough — formally called the Abraham Accords — was preceded by weeks of intensive talks between officials in Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi.

They are also reported to have followed months of efforts by Mossad chief Cohen.

Kushner said talks ramped up in the wake of UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba’s unprecedented June 12 op-ed on the front page of an Israeli newspaper, in which he dangled the prospects of full relations while warning against Jerusalem’s plan to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank.

Netanyahu on Friday also thanked Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, saying he helped bring about the deal. “He worked quietly behind the scenes with great determination and skill with his Emirati counterpart and the White House team to bring this about,” Netanyahu tweeted, referring to al-Otaiba.

A separate report on the Walla news site said the breakthrough happened two months ago, with Israel’s intention to annex parts of the West Bank playing a key role in shortening the path to a deal.

Mossad head Yossi Cohen made several clandestine trips to the UAE in the past year, and the Mossad arranged for secret shipments of medical equipment from Israel to the UAE after the onset of the pandemic, the Times reported.

Cohen has met often with representatives of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt in a years-long effort to build relations with the Gulf States, the Times said.

Channel 12 added that establishing relations with Arab states is considered the responsibility of the Mossad.

Also on Friday morning Channel 12 reported that various former senior officials had called Cohen the previous night to congratulate him on his work.

“I didn’t think I’d be so emotional,” it quoted Cohen as saying Thursday. “A bit like a schoolboy.

“Yesterday was a very exciting day for Mossad,” he said. “Our job in Mossad isn’t only to prevent war or to stop terror attacks against Israel, but also to identify opportunities for peace across the region and to give it our all to promote them. That’s what we did, and it is a feeling of huge satisfaction for all the workers of Mossad who toiled on this important effort and contributed to its advancement. I’m proud of them.”

Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi, which share a common foe in Iran, already had well established intelligence and security relations, which were kept quiet but considered an open secret.

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