Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a surprise visit to Oman in October, the first official visit by an Israeli leader in over two decades. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also traveled to Oman days before Netanyahu’s trip, leading to speculation that Oman could be acting as a go-between for another round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. In an interview with WPR, Giorgio Cafiero, founder and CEO of Gulf State Analytics, a geopolitical risk consultancy, discusses this recent flurry of diplomatic activity in the context of Oman’s historical efforts to break impasses in a number of regional conflicts.
World Politics Review: What is the significance of Netanyahu’s visit to Oman, coming on the heels of a similar trip by Abbas?
Giorgio Cafiero: Contacts between Oman and Israel are relatively recent, but not new. Diplomats from Muscat first engaged their Israeli counterparts in the early 1990s, establishing the basis for a relationship that has mostly been quiet and low-profile ever since. Netanyahu’s visit to the sultanate this year was a watershed moment, not only for Israeli-Omani ties but also for Israel’s engagement with the greater Islamic world. The visit came as several Gulf Arab states are moving toward warmer and increasingly normalized ties with Israel. Although Oman and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations, Muscat believes that dialogue and engagement between Israeli officials and their Arab counterparts will ultimately serve Oman’s interests as well as those of the region.