Israeli PM met Mohammed Bin Salman, report Israeli media; Saudi Arabia denies it

#GS2 #INTERNATIONALRELATIONS

Israeli media reports and a government source said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had met for landmark talks in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), but Riyadh denied that the meeting took place.

  • Saudi Foreign Minister strongly denied the report that suggested Saudi Arabia was moving away from its decades-old stance of refusing dialogue with Israel until the Palestinian conflict is resolved.
  • The reports fuelled speculation that Israel may be getting closer to normalising ties with Saudi Arabia after its recent historic U.S.-brokered deals of Abraham Records with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

 

Background:

  • The Abraham Accords were brokered under U.S. President Donald Trump, who leaves office in less than two months. It is Israel’s normalisation deals with UAE and Bahrain.
  • It is the first Arab-Israeli peace deal in 26 years.
  • The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel as part of a deal to halt the annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.
  • Normalisation of ties:The formal normalisation of Israel’s ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Bahrain has created a significant inflection point in regional history and geopolitics.
  • Sudan has also agreed in principle to normalise ties with Israel.
  • There has been speculation that the U.S may push for other Arab States to join the Accords before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.
  • While Israel has hailed the Accords as historic diplomatic agreements, the Palestinians have condemned them and urged Arab states to hold firm until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian territory and agrees to the creation of a Palestinian state.
  • Saudi Arabia (a close U.S. ally and oil-rich buyer of military goods) has publicly insisted it will stick to the Arab League position of not having ties with Israel until it reaches a peace deal with the Palestinians.
  • Prior to the Abraham Accords, Israel only had peace treaties with two Arab nations, Egypt and Jordan.
  • The so-called “Abraham Accords”, announced by United States President Donald Trump, secures an Israeli commitment to halt further annexation of Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank.

 

Significance for India:

  • Israel’s reconciliation with Egypt and Jordan did not have any major impact on India as its ties with them were relatively insignificant. At present, India has stronger, multifaceted and growing socio economic engagements with Israel and the Gulf countries.
  • Over eight million Indian diaspora in the Gulf annually account for remittances of nearly $50 billion.
  • India’s annual merchandise trade with the Gulf is over $150 billion, sourcing nearly two-thirds of India’s hydrocarbon imports, major investments, etc.
  • Calling both the countries its strategic partners, India has welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel.
  • But, the Israel-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) breakthrough widened the moderate constituency for peaceful resolution of the Palestine dispute, easing India’s diplomatic balancing act.
  • The Israel-GCC ties could provoke new polarisations between the Jihadi fringe and the mainstream.
  • The possibility of the southern Gulf becoming the new arena of the proxy war between Iran and Israel cannot be ruled out, particularly in Shia pockets.

 

Conclusion:

  • India has acquired a large and rewarding regional footprint in the Gulf. It is particularly preferred as the source of manpower, food products, pharmaceuticals, gem and jewellery, light engineering items, etc.
  • Indians are also the biggest stakeholders in Dubai’s real estate, tourism and Free Economic Zones.
  • In the evolving scenario, there may be scope for a profitable trilateral synergy, but India cannot take its prevalence for granted.
  • India must be careful and should monitor or even preempt any threat to its interests in the Gulf.
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