Israel working to advance alliance with Gulf states

Security cabinet to meet days after Netanyahu’s Iran warning.

SAUDI ARABIA’S envoy and other Gulf states gather in Kuwait in 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS)
SAUDI ARABIA’S envoy and other Gulf states gather in Kuwait in 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Spurred by the growing Iranian threat, Foreign Minister Israel Katz advanced a historic alliance between Israel and the Gulf states when he met with his Arab counterparts on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly two weeks ago.
“Recently I have advanced, with the support of the Prime Minister, a diplomatic initiative to sign a non-aggression pact with the Arab states in the Gulf. This historic initiative will put an end to the  conflict [between the Gulf states and Israel] and allow for civilian cooperation until peace agreements are signed,” Katz tweeted on Sunday.
“During my visit to the UN to presented the plan Arab foreign ministers and to the US envoy [Jason Greenblatt]. I will continue to act to strengthen Israel’s standing in the region and the world,” he said.
Israel’s Channel 12 first reported the story on Saturday night.  As a follow-up to the meetings, teams would likely be formed to discuss the plan, which would promote economic cooperation and ensure peaceful relations between the countries irrespective of what occurs with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The idea is to provide a blueprint for cooperation until such time as a full peace treaties can be signed with Israel and the Gulf countries.
Last week, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the Post that Israel and various Arab states, including those with whom Israel does not have formal ties, were working together at the UN and elsewhere against Iran.
While the “Europeans were running around trying to get a meeting between [US President Donald] Trump and [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani, Israel and various Arab states were coordinating efforts to reveal the true face of the Iranians,” Danon said.
At the General Assembly, Trump called on Arab states to normalize relations with Israel.
On Sunday, Israel’s security cabinet is set to meet for the first time in two months. The meeting comes just days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned about the increasing danger from Iran.
At the opening of the 22nd Knesset on Thursday, Netanyahu said, “Today, we are facing a huge security challenge, which has grown with each passing week and has intensified over the last two months... Anyone with eyes in his head can see that Iran is getting stronger.”
Tensions have been rising with Iran in the last months, culminating in a September 14 attack against Saudi oil fields. Tehran has denied involvement.
Iran has not drawn back to a less threatening military posture in the region following the attack on Saudi Arabia, the top US admiral in the Middle East told Reuters, suggesting persistent concern despite a lull in violence.
“I don’t believe that they’re drawing back at all,” V.-Adm. Jim Malloy, commander of the US Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, said.
Iran and the US have one month to get to the negotiating table, France’s foreign minister warned, suggesting that Tehran’s plan to increase its nuclear activities in November would spark renewed tension in the region.
French President Emmanuel Macron attempted, but failed to broker talks between Trump and Rouhani in New York last month.
“We consider that these initiatives, which didn’t succeed, are still on the table and it is up to Iran and the United States to seize [them] in a relatively short amount of time because Iran has announced new measures to reduce its commitments to the Vienna accord in November,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told the French parliament’s foreign affairs committee last week.
Iran is breaching the restrictions of its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers step-by-step in response to US sanctions imposed since Washington pulled out of the agreement in May of last year.
It has said its next reductions would be at the start of November and diplomats fear the next move could force European powers who are trying to salvage the accord to respond, unlike after previous breaches.
“These measures risk leading to a new period of tension and new escalation so we must take advantage of the political space that exists to move forward,” Le Drian said.
In New York, Macron’s efforts centered around getting both sides to agree on parameters for negotiations that included ensuring Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon, developing a regional security plan, including ending Yemen’s civil war, and the lifting of US economic sanctions on Iran.
Washington has repeatedly said it is prepared to hold talks with Iran on a more far-reaching deal, arguing its crippling economic sanctions will force Iran to the negotiating table. Tehran, however, has ruled out talks until those sanctions are lifted, while continuing its incremental nuclear expansion.
Macron had been trying over the past few weeks to defuse tensions between Washington and Tehran since the September 14 attack.
“There are parameters on the table today that we think we can move forward on them and France’s diplomacy is working on it,” Le Drian said.
Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to this report.