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Ali Adam

Bolsonaro and MbS know Israel is the way to Washington's heart

'The MbS-led normalisation of Arab world relations with Israel will perpetuate the Israeli occupation' [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 November, 2018

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Comment: Mohammed bin Salman and Brazil's Bolsonaro are two leaders hoping that warmer relations with Israel will be their ticket to currying favour with Trump's White House, writes Ali Adam.
Just when it seemed as though the downfall of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) might be on the cards, after brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia's de facto leader dealt the ultimate card to guarantee future American support.

That card, was simply to show the US and Israel why he's special; by reminding them that he's the only leader in the Arab world who's brave, (irresponsible and reckless) enough to kick off and lead open relations with Israel.

MbS surely knows that by officially beginning the normalisation project with Israel, and by starting to bring the two countries' warming relations out in the open, he would get double the lobbying power and support of the Israeli government and the enormously-influential pro-Israel lobby, both in the Trump era and beyond.

Over the past decades, Arab countries have long conditioned any relations with Israel on Israel's full withdrawal from the occupied territories, along with a just settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with UN resolution 194.

Recently, however, behind-the-scenes relations between Israel and some Gulf countries' monarchies - that Netanyahu likes to boasts of every now and then - have grown stronger. In the past week, Gulf countries' ties to Israel have been on public display for the first time, in what seemed to be a well-coordinated move between the Gulf states.

Israel's Netanyahu, along with other Israeli officials, visited Oman and met with Sultan Qaboos, and is also expected to visit Bahrain soon. Israeli culture minister Miri Regev was hosted by the UAE for four days, where, alongside UAE officials she toured Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

It deprives Palestinians of the only leveraging tool they have been able to draw on in negotiations

Last week, Israeli communication minister, Ayoub Kara attended an International Telecommunication Union Conference in Dubai, and currently Israeli Transportation minister, Yisrael Katz, is in Oman to attend a conference where he'll present plans for a railway to connect Israel to the Gulf. Other Israeli ministers are expected to visit Gulf countries in the coming months.

Oman's foreign minister publicly called for treating Israel the same as other states in the region, a statement that was endorsed by Bahrain.

All of this has happened within just the last ten days. The timing of the disclosure of ties and meetings with Israel over the past days is by no means coincidental. 

Those public meetings likely occurred at the request and supervision of MbS, who has no doubt feared - in the wake of the Khashoggi scandal - that pressure on his American allies to drop support for him might pay off.

Putting these Israel ties on show forms part of a strategy for him to get back in the game, and cement his rule by reminding Israel and pro-Israel officials in Washington of why he's special and indispensable.

MbS hopes to guarantee Washington's backing and Israeli support and lobbying in DC circles.

Read more: Israel minister visits Oman to present railway link to Gulf

Netanyahu, for his part, urged senior officials in the White House to continue supporting the disgraced Crown Prince, calling him a "strategic ally" in the Middle East, according to a report by The Washington Post.

And as relations with Gulf countries have begun to come out in the open, MbS can expect his lobby and support to grow, for many Israeli lobbying organisations in the US work closely and coordinate with Saudi and especially Emirati officials.

The gradual process of Arab countries' normalisation with Israel started some years ago, in the wake of the Arab Spring. The UAE's Mohammed bin Zayed is believed to be the godfather of that endeavour, and MbS who it is said takes his opinion seriously, has been influenced by him and embraced that endeavour.

But however the move played out behind the scenes, Gulf states' normalisation of ties with Israel is an unmitigated catastrophe for the Palestinians.

It deprives them of the only leveraging tool they have been able to draw on in negotiations, namely that 57 Muslim countries will embrace and kick off full relations with Israel if Israel withdraws from the occupied territories.

But what Gulf countries did instead - essentially to open relations with Israel for free - will disincentivise an already intransigent Israel from even considering reaching a diplomatic settlement to the conflict.

These new relations with Israel, especially if they are upgraded, which is highly likely, will strengthen Israel massively, weaken the boycott movements, and will effectively prolong the Israeli occupation and the Palestinians' suffering under the occupation.

In past decades, the Israeli lobby's has become so powerful, that it's almost impossible for any candidate for public office in the US to win without swearing allegiance to Israel and its right to defend itself - a euphemism for its right to continue its military rule and subjugation over the Palestinians.

For Palestinians, it is a disaster to see political power and momentum being gained in Washington by supporting Israel

This is the worst form of that pro-Israel hegemony and influence, in which immoral leaders of countries sacrifice Palestinians just to gain support in Washington, lobbied for by the Israeli lobby.

For Palestinians, it is a disaster to see political power and momentum being gained in Washington by supporting Israel, its policies and in effect its occupation, and by indirectly endorsing the continued denial of Palestinians' rights.

Bolsonaro has taken the same path

In a similar fashion to MbS, Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro joined the club of sacrificing Palestinians at the altar of political expediency.

Bolsonaro said after winning the second round of the election that he intends to fulfil his campaign promise, and move the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 
The former military captain also promised to vote in Israel's favour at the UN and made denigrating statements about Palestine and the Palestinians.

Brazil's new pro-dictatorship frontman is using Israel as a way of getting closer to the shamelessly pro-Israel Trump administration, and knows full well that the fastest way of doing so is by appeasing Israel and toeing the line of support for Israel's occupation. Bashing Palestinians along the way will curry favour with officials in the Trump administration, and help establish better relations between Bolsonaro's far-right Brazil, and Trump's America.

For Palestinians, the negative effect of Bolsonaro's intentions is not in the same league as the disastrous impact of the MbS-led normalisation of Arab world relations with Israel, which will perpetuate the Israeli occupation and empower it for decades to come.

Both leaders though, acted as a result of the massive influence of the Israel lobby in Washington, which has established an easy way to form good relations with the US, through supporting Israel and its occupation. Indeed, the fastest way to Washington's heart passes straight through Tel Aviv.

As a result, instead of taking a moral stance by for example boycotting Israel until it grants Palestinians their rights, some leaders are turning a blind eye to the occupation, with some even endorsing it. This situation guarantees for Israel that its occupation remains politically bulletproof and in exchange, ties with it remain enormously profitable.


Ali Adam is a journalist and researcher whose work focuses on issues linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Follow him on Twitter @_Ali_Adam_

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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