Qatar Joins Saudi in Denying Israel Normalization Plans
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to create a pre-election buzz around further Middle East normalization moves took another blow when Qatar denied it was pursuing any such plan.
Netanyahu said last week that four countries are on their way to establishing diplomatic relations with his country, and his intelligence minister later identified Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Niger as prospective partners.
Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, said on Saturday that normalization was contingent on the resolution of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. A Qatari Foreign Ministry official said Sunday that the same condition applied to his country. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic strategy.
Netanyahu’s attempt to mix diplomacy with election politics prompted an acerbic response from the United Arab Emirates, which in August became the first Gulf Arab nation to agree to normalize ties with Israel. Netanyahu planned a March 11 visit to Abu Dhabi, less than two weeks before Israel’s election. After it was canceled due to a tiff with Jordan, the UAE’s presidential adviser, Anwar Gargash, said his country “will not be a part in any internal electioneering in Israel, now or ever.”
Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE’s minister of industry and advanced technology, tempered expectations regarding Netanyahu’s claim this month that the country would invest $10 billion in Israeli projects, saying studies were at an early stage and any investments would be “commercially driven and not politically associated.”
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