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Israeli minister says normalisation deals need US president tough on Iran

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are among countries slated to establish relations with Israel under a regional rapprochement launched by US President Donald Trump, an Israeli official said on Monday.

Straying from Israel's reticence about Tuesday's US election, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said implementing further normalisation deals could depend on the next president displaying continued "resolve" against Iran.

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden wants to rejoin the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal that the Republican incumbent quit, to the satisfaction of Israel and some Gulf Arabs.

Trump, who has played up his Middle East policy while campaigning, was asked last week which countries might follow the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan in normalising ties with Israel. "We have five definites," he responded.

Trump and the Middle East – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Cohen said Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Morocco, and Niger were "on the agenda".

"These are the five countries," he told Ynet TV. "And if the Trump policy continues, we will be able to reach additional agreements."

While not explicitly favouring either US candidate, Cohen argued that Trump's policy had prompted Arab and Muslim countries to seek accommodation with Israel.

If the next president "does not show resolve vis-a-vis Iran, then what will happen is that they will take their time, will not rush, will not choose a side," Cohen said. "A concessionary policy will get the peace deals stuck."

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Saudi Arabia, the Gulf powerhouse and Islam's birthplace, quietly acquiesced to the UAE and Bahrain deals with Israel, signed on September 15. But Riyadh has stopped short of endorsing them and signalled it is not ready to follow suit.

The Saudis were the architects of a 2002 Israeli-Arab peace proposal that called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied land to make way for a Palestinian state.

Qatar, which has links to Iran and Hamas, has ruled out normalisation before Palestinians achieve statehood.

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