Despite regional turmoil, President Trump’s grand Middle East strategy to unite Israel with the Saudis and other Gulf Arab powers against Iran and lay the groundwork for a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is making unexpected progress away from the limelight.
The latest sign: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unannounced trip last week to Oman, the first by an Israeli leader in more than two decades. That visit has been followed by a string of other overtures Israel has made toward Gulf Arab states, including another taboo-breaking public appearance in the United Arab Emirates by Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev.
The flurry of diplomatic activity with Arab powers that traditionally avoid overt dealings with Israel has “been good for the optic for both Netanyahu and the Trump administration,” advertising the fact that “relevant regional peace partners are in place to support a possible new Israeli-Palestinian ‘deal’ before it is being launched,” said Assaf Orion, a former Israel Defense Forces general and visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Mr. Netanyahu’s visit to Oman, which borders Saudi Arabia and has often played the role of regional mediator with Iran, could be critical to Mr. Trump’s push to isolate Tehran after the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. The Arab states could put behind-the-scenes pressure on the Palestinians to accept the much-anticipated peace deal being put together by White House aide and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner.