Dubai-based billionaire Khalaf Al Habtoor called on Arabs to “deal with” Israel, in a piece published by Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz this week.
Al Habtoor is one of the richest people in the United Arab Emirates. He is the founder of Al Habtoor Group, a conglomerate that built Dubai International Airport and several high-rises in the city, as well as being a dealer in luxury cars.
In his piece, Al Habtoor writes that Israelis will receive “untold benefits” if Palestinians are granted their equal rights under one state, including “inflows of investments from the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] and other Arab countries to boost Israel’s economy” and an exchange of “security and intelligence cooperation,” especially on Iran.
While Al Habtoor recognizes the reality of the one-state solution as the only viable option for peace, he does not express a commitment to hold Israel accountable for its atrocities.
Instead, he calls on Palestinians and neighboring countries to “put a lid” on their “emotional baggage and bad experience” in order to move forward because “Israel with its nuclear weapons and military might is going nowhere.”
Al Habtoor’s piece comes amid a wave of covert diplomatic normalization between several Gulf states and Israel. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar have all been involved in such normalization, even though there are no formal diplomatic relations between these countries and Israel.
Al Habtoor took to Twitter in March to say that “as Arabs, we should not be against Israeli youth participating in sports events with us,” in clear violation of the international picket line to boycott Israel until it is held accountable for it atrocities.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Emirates ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba and Bahrain ambassador Abdullah bin Rashed Al Khalifa in Washington during March, the Associated Press has reported.
Al Otaiba and Al Khalifa were hosting US senior policy adviser Brian Hook and a number of journalists at the luxurious Cafe Milano in the US capital. Netanyahu and his wife Sara were in Washington for the AIPAC conference – an annual gathering of the pro-Israel lobby – and were stopping at the restaurant for dinner.
When Al Otaiba was made aware of Netanyahu’s presence in the restaurant, he sent out a request for him and his wife to join the dinner table, which “first passed through the restaurant’s owner, then one of the journalists, who had walked by Netanyahu’s table while on the way to the restroom,” according to AP.
Netanyahu and his wife “came over to say hello on their way out,” AP reported.
“They lingered, answering a few questions from the group about Iran and other issues. There were smiles, a few laughs about the oddity of the situation, and Netanyahu shook hands with the two ambassadors before leaving the restaurant.”
The AP was notified by six individuals who either attended the dinner or were briefed on it, but did not disclose who as “the dinner’s ground rules were that it be considered off the record.”
Iran at the core
Meanwhile, Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa tweeted recently that “as long as Iran breaches the status quo in the region and evacuates its troops and missiles, any state in the region, including Israel, has the right to defend itself by destroying sources of danger.”
This happened after President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and Israel attacked Iranian bases in Syria.
A recent headline in the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat speaks to the core of the foreign minister’s remarks, and the core of this growing trend of normalization between Arab states and Israel: a mutual enmity towards Iran.
Moreover, normalization trends are extending beyond covert meetings between state officials.
On Thursday, former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Bahrain and current lobbyist for Qatar Adam Ereli, and the Saudi founder of the Arabia Foundation, Ali Shihabi, were seen having lunch together in Washington.
Israel-Jordan gas deal
Israel will start pumping natural gas to Jordan by the beginning of 2020, Jordan’s energy minister Saleh Kharabsheh told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. The gas pipelines and other project procedures are being finalized.
The state-owned National Jordanian Electric Power Company (NEPCO) has signed a $15 billion agreement to buy natural gas from Israel over a 15-year period. The deal is set to proceed despite strong internal opposition from the public and the Jordanian parliament.
In less than two years, the gas will be extracted from the Israeli-controlled Leviathan gas fields situated in the eastern Mediterranean. The extraction project is being led by the US giant Noble Energy.
The Israeli government is set to make $8.4 billion from the deal.
- United Arab Emirates
- Saudi Arabia
- Israel-Jordan gas deal
- Khalaf Al Habtoor
- Al Habtoor Group
- Arab normalization
- Giro d'Italia
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Yousef Al Otaiba
- Abdullah bin Rashed Al Khalifa
- Associated Press
- Martin Indyk
- Adam Ereli
- Arabia Foundation
- Ali Shihabi
- National Jordanian Electric Power Company
- Leviathan gas field
- Noble Energy
- Saleh Kharabsheh
- al-Araby al-Jadeed
- Asharq Al-Awsat
- Donald Trump
- Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa
- Brian Hook
- Gulf Cooperation Council