Yusuf bin Alawi
Yusuf bin AlawiReuters

A top Omani government official on Saturday said Arabs must take initiatives to make Israel overcome "fears for its future" in the region, drawing criticism from Jordan.

The remarks by Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the minister responsible for foreign affairs in Oman, came on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum hosted by Jordan on the shores of the Dead Sea.

"The West has offered Israel political, economic and military support and it now holds all the means of power... but despite that it fears for its future as a non-Arab country surrounded by 400 million Arabs," he said.

"I believe that we Arabs must be able to look into this issue and try to ease those fears that Israel has through initiatives and real deals between us and Israel," he told a panel discussing geopolitics.

The panel's moderator, journalist Hadley Gamble, interrupted him to ask if the best solution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian Authority (PA) conflict is "recognizing Israel and its right to exist."

The minister said no.

"Not recognizing, but we want them themselves to feel that there are no threats to their future."

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, whose country is the only Arab nation along with Egypt to have a peace treaty with Israel, dismissed the remarks saying "the issue is that there is an occupation" of Arab land.

"The Arab world has recognized Israel's right to exist. The Palestinians themselves recognized the Israeli right to exist... that is not the issue," Safadi told the panel. "The issue is that there is an occupation. Is this occupation going to end or not?

Israel, Safadi said, must "withdraw from Arab lands occupied since 1967 and allow" the creation of a Palestinian state. "This is the issue," he said.

"If they (Israel) say they are not comfortable, that is not my problem," said Safadi. "The problem is not with Arabs giving assurances... the problem is with Israel doing what is right for peace," he added. "Israel... is not doing the right thing. Actually it is doing more of the wrong things by suffocating Palestinians," the Jordanian foreign minister said.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas an Israeli withdrawal of 95 percent of the territory and a territorial exchange in order to bring the territorial arrangement to the basis of the 1967 borders.

Abbas, however, never responded to the offer, which would have included dividing Jerusalem.

"Gaza, is probably as you heard many times, the world's largest prison," he added, ignoring the role played by Hamas, the terror group which rules Gaza.

In February, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met one-on-one with Bin Alawi at an international conference in Warsaw, attended by officials from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

In October last year, Netanyahu held surprise talks with Oman's Sultan Qaboos in Muscat -- raising Palestinian fears of a normalisation of ties.

Last year Bin Alawi told a regional conference in Bahrain it might be "time for Israel to be treated the same (as states in the Middle East) and also bear the same obligations."

Bahrain endorsed the remarks which at the time were said to be aimed at moving the Israeli-Palestinian "narrative from intractability to a new focus of pragmatism."