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Israel FM: ‘Realistic’ to expect formal relations with Gulf states ‘in the coming years’

The Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa meets with his Israeli counterpart Yisrael Katz in Washington, US, on 17 July 2019
Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa meets with his Israeli counterpart Yisrael Katz in Washington, US, on 17 July 2019 [Twitter]

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz declared yesterday that “promoting Israel’s rapprochement with the Arab world is his top priority”, reported the Times of Israel, “adding that it was realistic to expect formal peace deals with moderate Sunni Gulf states within a few years”.

“My goal, with the full backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is to work toward an overt normalization, to extend it and turn it public, and to get to the signing of diplomatic [peace] agreements with the Gulf states,” Katz declared. “This is the challenge; this is the goal.”

Katz, who is also intelligence minister, was speaking at a session of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, the vast majority of which was held behind closed doors. The “rare meeting” was held with the Knesset in recess ahead of next month’s election.

According to Katz – part of the ruling Likud party – it is “realistic” to expect full normalization with the Gulf states “in the coming years”, even without progress in a peace process with Palestinians.

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“We don’t have border disputes. We don’t have any other disputes,” he said, adding that disagreements between Israel and Arab countries over the Palestinians need not obstruct warmer ties.

Referring to what Katz described as a recent meeting with an unnamed senior Arab official, the minister said that in the Middle East there are “frenemies”.

“You can argue about one thing and cooperate on other matters. Therefore, you, the Gulf states, have no reason not to work with us on some issues, even if we disagree about the Palestinian issue.”

Katz added that the close ties between Israel and the Trump administration is also a factor in the closer relations between Israel and Arab governments: “Of course they very much want Israel as a connecting factor.”

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