The world is asking who will be the next Arab nation to make peace with Israel after the stunning announcement that both the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain will be normalizing relations with the Jewish state this week at the White House.
One of the leading candidates for the next country would definitely be the Sultanate of Oman. The late sultan of Oman, Qaboos Bin Said, welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a private visit in 2018. The meeting was held in secret until Netanyahu cleared Omani airspace heading back to Israel. At that point the Omani palace released photos and video of the meeting between Netanyahu and Sultan Qaboos.
The government of Oman has been through changes since the sultan’s death earlier this year, but its actions have indicated that the current leadership under Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said is carrying on where Qaboos left off. The Omani government responded positively to the decision by UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to normalize relations with Israel on Aug. 13 and again after Bahrain announced its decision to also make peace with the Jewish state on Friday.
“The Sultanate welcomes the initiative taken by the sister kingdom of Bahrain, within the framework of its sovereign rights, and the joint tripartite declaration on relations with Israel and hopes that this new strategic direction chosen by some Arab countries will be a practical tributary towards achieving peace, based on ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories,” the government of Oman said in a statement.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been in touch with Sultan Haitham as recently as last week. In a phone call, Trump thanked him for his support of the UAE peace deal with Israel and congratulated him on his first eight months in power.
According to a White House statement, Trump also “discussed ways to enhance regional security and strengthen the United States-Oman bilateral economic partnership.”
The Omani government has maintained close relationships with the United States – but also with Iran. Oman is often a back channel for the U.S. and the Iranian leadership to communicate. Oman may want to maintain this status and not make a formal peace with Israel, is actually more likely that Oman would join its Gulf Arab brothers – the UAE and Bahrain – to be part of this historic and dramatic realignment in the Middle East.
A telling sign will be whether the Omani ambassador to the United States, Hunaina Al-Mughairy, attends the Tuesday White House ceremony. She was one of three Arab state ambassadors to attend the White House event in January in which Trump revealed his Middle East peace plan along with Yousef al-Otaiba from the UAE and Abdullah bin Rashid al-Khalifa from Bahrain.
We will be keeping a close eye on what Oman will do next.