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Israeli minister visits Oman amid warming ties with Arab governments

Israeli Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz (2nd-L) stands next to Omani officials during the opening ceremony of the IRU (International Road Transport Union) World Congress in Muscat on November 7, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

An Israeli minister is visiting Oman, following a controversial trip by the regime’s premier to the sultanate, for talks on a railway project as Tel Aviv moves to make its secret ties with the Persian Gulf Arab monarchies public.

Israeli Transport and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, who reportedly arrived in Muscat on Sunday, will take part later on Wednesday in the International Road Transport Union, where he is expected to propose a railway connecting the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean via the Israeli-occupied territories.

At the annual conference, he would be explaining that the proposed railway would start in Haifa, go through Jordan, and eventually connect to some railway stations in the Persian Gulf region.

Late last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Oman in a surprise visit, which marked the high point of increasing Arab-Israeli gravitation over the past several years.

Israel and certain Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and its regional allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, have been making overt and covert contacts over the past years.

The overtures have taken place against the backdrop of those Arab governments’ alleged support for the Palestinian cause against the Tel Aviv regime’s occupation.

The pro-Israel administration of US President Donald Trump strongly supports the increasing closeness. Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt welcomed Katz’s visit to Oman, tweeting, “These efforts support our efforts.”

The Palestinians have, however, clearly distanced themselves from the administration’s Middle East policy, calling it excessively in favor of Israel.

Late last year, the Palestinian Authority (PA) stopped recognizing Washington’s negotiating role in any Middle East process after Trump recognized the occupied holy city of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital.”

Several Palestinian officials, including those from the Gaza Strip-based resistance movement Hamas, and Mohammad Shtayyeh, an adviser to PA’s President Mahmoud Abbas, also cried out after Netanyahu’s Oman visit, denouncing attempts to normalize relations between Tel Aviv and Arab countries.

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