Palestinian groups condemn Oman over Netanyahu visit

Netanyahu with Sultan Qaboos

Oman’s welcoming of the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been called “a stab in the back” of the Palestinian people by the Islamic resistance movement Hamas.

In a statement following yesterday’s visit by Netanyahu to Muscat, Hamas said it “deplores the acceleration of normalisation with the Israeli entity” which serves as “an encouragement and cover for the Zionist enemy to commit more crimes and violations against the Palestinian people, and a stab in the back.”

Hamas urged Arab countries to support the oppressed people of Palestine instead.

The Islamic Jihad movement also censured the visit, saying Oman has acquitted Netanyahu of the crimes committed against innocent Palestinians by welcoming him to the country.

Regional reaction has been limited so far but the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bassam Ghasemi said: “This regime seeks to create divisions between Muslim countries and obscure 70 years of usurpation, rape and killing of the oppressed Palestinians.”

He further claimed the US and the Zionist lobby in Washington were pressuring Islamic countries “to normalise relations” with Israel.

“History and experience show that retreating and acquiescing to the illegitimate demands of the United States and the usurper Zionist regime will make them more bold and more dominant in the region, while ignoring the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights,” he said.

“In our view, the Islamic countries of the region should not allow the White House to use the Zionist regime to create a climate promoting new troubles in the region.”

Meanwhile, Oman described Israel as an “accepted Middle East state” on Saturday, a day after hosting a surprise visit by its prime minister that Washington said could help regional peace efforts.

Oman is offering ideas to help Israel and the Palestinians to come together but is not acting as mediator, Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the sultanate’s minister responsible for foreign affairs, told a security summit in Bahrain.  “Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this,” bin Alawi said.

“The world is also aware of this fact. Maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same [as other states] and also bear the same obligations. We are not saying that the road is now easy and paved with flowers, but our priority is to put an end to the conflict and move to a new world,” bin Alawi told the summit.

Oman is relying on the United States and efforts by President Donald Trump in working toward the “deal of the century” (Middle East peace), he added.

Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa voiced support for Oman over the sultanate’s role in trying to secure Israeli-Palestinian peace, while Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said the kingdom believes the key to normalizing relations with Israel was the peace process.

Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt welcomed the “warming ties & growing cooperation between our regional friends” in a tweet late on Friday.

“This is a helpful step for our peace efforts & essential to create an atmosphere of stability, security & prosperity between Israelis, Palestinians & their neighbors. Looking forward to seeing more meetings like this!” Greenblatt said.

Israel and some Gulf states share an interest in curbing Iran’s influence in the region.

Oman has long been to the Middle East what neutral Switzerland is to global diplomacy. The country helped to mediate secret U.S.-Iran talks in 2013 that led to the historic nuclear deal signed in Geneva two years later.

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