Analysis: Has the real Arab Spring now finally begun?

Sudan, Morocco, and Arab nations signal desire for closer ties with Israel which were unthinkable just a few years ago.

Yochanan Visser ,

Netanyahu meets Ugandan President
Netanyahu meets Ugandan President
Chaim Tzach/GPO

This is the question that arises from a series of stunning developments regarding relationships between Israel and North African Muslim states as well as Arab countries.

This week, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu travelled to Uganda and everybody thought the visit was about the opening of a Ugandan embassy in Jerusalem.

While this topic was on the agenda in the talks with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni the real reason Netanyahu suddenly traveled to the African country was a meeting between Netanyahu and Sudanese leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan which Museveni facilitated.

Al-Burhan ascended to power after the ruthless dictator Omar al-Bashir was forced out of office ten months ago.

Under al-Burhan Sudan returned to the family of nations and left the Iranian axis which used the country as a large base from where it smuggled weapons to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza while Sudan also served as a safe haven for Sunni terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden the assassinated leader of Ql Qaeda.

The Palestinian Authority strongly condemned the meeting between al-Burhan and Netanyahu and claimed it was “a stab in the back”.

“This meeting is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a blatant departure from the Arab Peace Initiative at a time when the administration of [US] President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are trying to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” the PA’s jobless chief negotiator Saeb Erekat fumed in a statement.

Netanyahu has also tried to reach normalization in the ties with Morocco a North African Arab country that has always been moderate in its attitudes toward the Jewish state.

The Israeli Prime Minister reportedly offered to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed territories in the Western Sahara desert in exchange for Morocco’s normalization of the relationship with Israel.

The effort was scuttled by former US national security adviser John Bolton who strongly opposed the normalization in the Israeli Moroccan relationship TV channel 13 in Israel reported on Monday.

Israeli officials told Channel 13 that “ the proposed deal had something for everyone — US President Donald Trump could boast of having advanced ties between Israel and an Arab state, Netanyahu could visit Morocco and hold a high-profile meeting with King Mohammed VI, and Rabat could secure US recognition of its claims in the Western Sahara,” The Times of Israel reported on Tuesday.

In December Netanyahu tried to join US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his trip to Morocco but the Moroccans reportedly got cold feet and refused to cooperate.

However, Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat did succeed to establish a relationship with a close aide to Nassir Bourita the Foreign Minister of Morocco.

Israelis are allowed to travel to the North African Arab country while Israel also shares intelligence with Morocco. Israel Aerospace Industries furthermore last week sold three Heron drones to Morocco under an unprecedented deal.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law and his most important adviser on the peace process between Israel and the Arab world was reportedly behind the effort to reach reconciliation between Morocco and the Jewish state.

Kushner pushes for non-belligerence pacts between moderate Arab countries and Israel in light of Iran’s growing influence over Middle Eastern countries.

A US official now says that we are close to the point these Arab countries will sign those pacts and also will allow direct flights from Ben Gurion Airport to Arab capitals while allowing Israeli officials to visit the countries.

"We have been working behind the scenes to get it ready," the unnamed official said a week after the ambassadors of Bahrain, United Arabs Emirates and Oman attended the roll-out of Trump’s peace plan at the White House.

The same official said that the Trump Administration was pleasantly surprised by the moderate reactions to the Trump vision on the Palestinian Arab conflict and claimed that many Arab leaders were ready to cooperate on the implementation of the plan.

The news about the progress in the effort to achieve Israeli Arab normalization coincided with a report over Israeli delegations quietly making trips to Saudi Arabia while Israeli Interior Minister Ariyeh Deri issued a historic statement calling upon Israeli businessmen to visit the Kingdom.

The same day Deri issued his statement Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir denied that his country had developed any ties with Israel.

Israelis with foreign passports have reportedly been visiting Saudi Arabia for two years now flying to Jeddah on special flights or with Jordanian Airlines.

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is behind this spectacular development.

He needs Israeli high-tech and advanced agricultural technology from the Jewish state to develop his Vision 2030 project which involves the building of a giant new city under the name Neom that will stretch from the Saudi Red Sea coast into Egyptian territory in the Sinai Desert.

Associated Press, furthermore reported that Arab Israelis are no longer required to obtain a special permit to visit the Muslim holy places in Saudi Arabia something the Foreign Ministry in the Kingdom later denied after issuing the original statement.

A delegation of Saudi clerics also made history when it visited the Nazi death camp Auschwitz in Poland at the end of January.

At the end of last year Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz both said that the time had come for normalization and full diplomatic ties between Israel and the moderate Arab countries.

So, is this what we are witnessing currently?

There’s no doubt something happening in the relations between Israel and these moderate Arab countries but on the other hand the same countries showed last week that old habits die hard and that it will take courage to come out in the open about their relations with Israel.

There are currently two camps in the Middle East when it comes to these relations.

The first is the Iranian-led resistance bloc that uses the stubborn Palestinian refusal to come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state in territories that only for a few decades belonged to what the British started to call ‘Palestine” during their Mandate over what is now Israel and Jordan.

This bloc, which includes Turkey, causes the continuing belligerence against Israel and encourages Palestinian terror against the Jewish state.

The second bloc is led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt that has a peace treaty with Israel but never allowed a real peace to emerge.

The bloc has shared interests with Israel such as the battle against Iran and fanatical Islam but is (not yet?) able to distance itself from the Palestinian national project as was shown in Cairo last Saturday when the Arab League unanimously adopted a resolution rejecting Trump's peace vision out of hand.

So we may be seeing the end of winter in the relations between Israel and a number of Arab states but it’s still far from becoming a real Arab Spring.