Why Israel is quietly cosying up to Gulf monarchies

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After decades of hostility, a shared hatred of Iran – and a mutual fondness for Trump – is bringing Israel’s secret links with Gulf kingdoms out into the open. By Ian Black

In mid-February 2019, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, flew to Warsaw for a highly unusual conference. Under the auspices of the US vice-president, Mike Pence, he met the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and two other Gulf states that have no diplomatic relations with Israel. The main item on the agenda was containing Iran. No Palestinians were present. Most of the existing links between Israel and the Gulf have been kept secret – but these talks were not. In fact, Netanyahu’s office leaked a video of a closed session, embarrassing the Arab participants.

The meeting publicly showcased the remarkable fact that Israel, as Netanyahu was so keen to advertise, is winning acceptance of a sort from the wealthiest countries in the Arab world – even as the prospects for resolving the longstanding Palestinian issue are at an all-time low. This unprecedented rapprochement has been driven mainly by a shared animosity towards Iran, and by the disruptive new policies of Donald Trump.

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