Arab-Israeli normalization picks up pace in 2020
RAMALLAH - Anadolu Agency
Tel Aviv has been keen to publicly announce secret relations with Arab countries in a bid to break with political tradition.
Current developments coincided with the announcement of the so-called "Deal of the Century" the White House unveiled late last month.
Notably, Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries that have public diplomatic relations with Israel.
The following are the main developments since the beginning of 2020:
Jan. 19: Israel officially announces its participation in Expo 2020 Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The exhibition will be held from Oct. 2020 until April 2021. The UAE, for its part, did not comment on the Israeli announcement.
Jan. 28: Ambassadors of the UAE, Bahrain and Oman take part in the White House unveiling ceremony for the so-called "Deal of the Century" in Washington, D.C. U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked them for attending the event.
Jan. 30: French website Intelligence Online announces that Morocco has received three Israeli-made aircraft. Three Israel Aerospace Industries Heron drones were purchased for $48 million to spy on desert areas. Rabat neither confirmed nor denied the report.
Jan. 31: Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan retweets the link to an article calling on Palestinians not to refuse the "Deal of the Century." The article was an opinion piece published by The New York Times titled "Every Time Palestinians Say 'No,' They Lose."
Feb. 3: Netanyahu meets General Abdul Fattah Al-Burhan, the chairman of Sudan's ruling Sovereign Council, in Entebbe, Uganda where both of them agreed to "start cooperation that would lead to normalization of relations between the two countries." The Times of Israel newspaper cited a high-ranking Sudanese military official as saying that the UAE organized the meeting.
The Sudanese official said only a “small circle” of senior officials in Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were informed about the meeting.
The source added that al-Burhan agreed to meet Netanyahu because officials thought this would help "accelerate" the process of removing Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. “We agreed to begin cooperation that will lead to normalization of relations between the two countries,” Netanyahu tweeted. However, Israel said the meeting was arranged by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Feb. 6: The Israeli Cycling Academy announces it has signed Moroccan bike champion Mahdi Shukri as the first Arab to join a cycling team in Israel. The academy welcomed Shukri on Twitter, stressing he is the first Muslim Arab cycler to join it.
Feb. 7: The Israel Hayom daily newspaper says intensive talks have been underway to hold a "historic meeting" in Cairo between Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
It said there have been discussions between Washington, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to arrange a summit meeting in Cairo soon.
The talks were pushed for by the U.S.' Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been, according to the same daily, mediating between Israel and Saudi Arabia on the matter for several months. It pointed out that the summit meeting would be attended by "the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and also the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Bahrain and Oman."
The newspaper cited senior Arab diplomatic sources who said the summit would be held "as early as the coming weeks, even before the election in Israel" slated for March.
For his part, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud denied the report, saying: "There are no plans to hold a meeting between Saudi Arabia and Israel."
Feb. 12: Israeli Arabic-speaking i24 News channel reveals that Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman of the Dubai Diamond Exchange, will visit Israel for three days to participate in International Diamond Week in Tel Aviv. The Israeli daily of The Jerusalem Post confirmed that the visit had already taken place. The UAE did not comment on the report.