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Israel is keeping its eye on Gulf reconciliation efforts

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (L) is welcomed by Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (R) ahead of the 41st Summit of Gulf Cooperation Council in AlUla, Saudi Arabia on January 05, 2021 [Royal Council of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency]
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (L) is welcomed by Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (R) in AlUla, Saudi Arabia on 5 January 2021 [Royal Council of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency]

At the time when the Gulf reconciliation was announced, a number of Israeli positions emerged. Security, military, and political parties close to the decision-making circles in Tel Aviv diverged in their assessment on the reconciliation ranging between different approaches and interpretations.

Some Israelis believe the Gulf reconciliation could create a political shield in the Gulf region that may threaten Iran and put pressure on the Palestinians on the one hand, and complete the normalisation process with Israel on the other.

Israelis see that there is a connection between the Gulf reconciliation process aimed at resolving the 2017 crisis, and the leaks about a possible reconciliation between Turkey, Qatar's most important ally, and a number of countries in the region, particularly Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

The Arab rift with #Qatar intensifies - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The Arab rift with Qatar intensifies – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The Israeli circles saw the Gulf crisis as being part of a major struggle to lead the Muslim world. They, therefore, did not consider the developments that took place in the Gulf region between 2017 and 2021 as merely a normal crisis between neighbouring countries, but rather as a conflict with global repercussions that extend from Malaysia, through Pakistan, to Libya.

Many pointed out that the recent developments have been perhaps stimulated by the strong will of the administration of outgoing President Donald Trump to reach an agreement whereby Qatar normalises relations with Israel in exchange for urging Saudi Arabia to end the blockade. This also just months before the widely anticipated 2022 FIFA World Cup due to be held in Qatar, which many expect provides another push for Doha to negotiate a way out of the crisis. Such a move could also encourage Saudi Arabia to take similar measures.

OPINION: There is a big difference between Arab and Turkish normalisation with Israel

Relations between Qatar and Israel date back to the 1990s and were friendlier than Tel Aviv's ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE at the time. However, since then, many things have changed for a number of reasons, including Qatar's military alliance with Turkey and its support for Hamas.

Israel's attention has been centred on Hamas' congratulatory message to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on the progress of the reconciliation efforts, expressing its hope that the Gulf crisis would come to an end in order to restore unity and solidarity, which would contribute to the unity of the Arab position.

Hamas also called for launching a comprehensive regional dialogue to put an end to the various factors and facets of differences between all Arab and Muslim countries in the region, hoping that 2021 will be the year of achieving Palestinian national unity and the unity of the components of the Arab and Muslim nations.

Israeli circles believe Qatar benefited the most from the recent developments among its Gulf neighbours by playing more than one role at the same time. Doha will appear open to establishing relations with Israel, maintaining close relations with pro-Tel Aviv pressure groups in Washington, but at the same time it will preserve close ties with the Islamic movements, and there is no evidence that it has abandoned this approach.

OPINION: Third parties and heightened tension between Washington and Tehran

Regarding Israel's regional relations, Tel Aviv considers Qatar to be a key player that is able to help moderate the severity of the dispute with Turkey, and become a more active actor in efforts to establish a truce with Hamas in Gaza.

At the same time, the Israeli circles did not hesitate to express their disappointment at concluding the Gulf reconciliation without forcing Qatar to commit to several conditions, most notably cutting ties with Iran and Turkey and retreating its support for Hamas and Hezbollah, due to the fact that Doha rejected these demands and accused the blockading countries of attempting to undermine its sovereignty. However, the indications on the ground say that three years after the siege and boycott, Qatar overcame the blockade thanks to its ties with Turkey and Iran, while managing to establish good relations with the United States; creating a balanced and very rare equation in international relations.

A growing number of countries in the MENA region are normalising ties with Israel - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

A growing number of countries in the MENA region are normalising ties with Israel – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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