After historic Israel-UAE flight, other Muslim-majority countries considering to follow suit

Earlier this week, an Israeli plane imprinted with the word “peace” on the outside of its cockpit flew from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, symbolically sealing a landmark diplomatic deal between the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates. The El Al flight – carrying U.S. and Israeli leaders, including President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner – was the first direct commercial passenger flight ever between the two countries. The Aug. 13 deal is said to already be propelling other countries to follow the Emirates in formally shaking hands with the nation many still don’t even recognize on a map, breaking the decades-long mandate in which many Muslim-majority and Arab countries refused to form ties until there is an enduring peace agreement with the Palestinians. But what country is most likely to come next? Bahrain’s cabinet exalted the deal, and U.S. diplomats orchestrating the Israel-UAE agreement are reported to have discussed economic advancement in the capital, Manama, last year. Moreover, Bahrain’s prime minister is said to have talked to Israel’s spy chief by phone as recently as mid-August, although Bahrain has denied such engagement took place. The tiny constitutional monarchy, which is tightly aligned to the UAE, also perceives Iran as an existential regional threat. Other warming indicators include last year’s hosting of Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and a meeting with King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa in the capital, and Bahrainis competing in a May 2018 bike race – alongside UAE participants – inside Israel. But to date, no official statement regarding Israel-Bahrain liaisons has been issued. Other experts have also pointed toward Oman, which was quick to laud the agreement and in years past has played as interlocutor between Israel and Arab states. Sudan has also been named as a likely suitor, although its public messaging has been mixed. The East African nation’s interim leader, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda in February, signaling that early talks to normalize ties were in motion. Soon after the UAE announcement was made, Sudan – which is currently under turmoil and transition in the rocky aftermath of the April 2019 ousting of long-running ruler Omar al-Bashir – declared it too was in the process but reneged on its communique amid a public backlash. “Sudan, which has long been a global pariah due to its sponsorship of Al Qaeda as well as its egregious human rights violations in Darfur and elsewhere, is hoping to get itself off the U.S. government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism,” explained Raphael Marcus, research fellow at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. “There have been indications since the fall of Omar al-Bashir in Sudan that Sudan’s new government believes its standing in the United States and globally will be improved by ties with Israel.” Over in the continent’s north, Morocco has been listed as another nation prepping for some sort of Israel advancement, having played a significant part in an array of peace efforts over the years. The country has a small Jewish community, which once surpassed 250,000 in the mid-20th century but has dwindled to just 3,000.

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