Oman FM: Palestinians must reassure Israel it’s not in peril

DEAD SEA, Jordan (AP) — Oman’s foreign minister urged Palestinians on Saturday to reassure Israel that it is not under threat in the Middle East, drawing a rare public rebuke from his Jordanian counterpart.

Oman’s Yusuf bin Alawi and Jordan’s Ayman Safadi shared the stage at a regional gathering of the World Economic Forum, held on Jordan’s shores of the Dead Sea.

Bin Alawi spoke at a time of warming ties between Israel and several Gulf Arab states, as part of an unofficial alliance against Iranian influence in the region.

The Omani minister said that Palestinians “should help Israel to get away from” what he said was its mistaken sense of being threatened.

Safadi responded sharply, to applause from the audience.

“I beg to differ on a number of issues,” said Safadi. He noted that in 2002, as part of the Arab Peace Initiative, scores of Arab and Muslim countries offered Israel recognition in exchange for a withdrawal from occupied lands sought for a Palestinian state.

Safadi said the problem is whether Israeli occupation “is going to end.”

Lebanon’s defense minister and Bahrain’s foreign minister were also present on stage during the exchange.

The recent rapprochement between Israel and several Gulf states has been fueled by deepening rivalries between regional camps, led by Saudi Arabia and Iran, respectively. The Trump administration’s hard anti-Iran line has contributed to growing regional tensions.

In October, Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit to Oman and Israeli officials visited the United Arab Emirates in recent months.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians feel increasingly sidelined, fearing Israel, Gulf states and the U.S. plan to strike a deal behind their backs about the future of war-won lands they seek for a future state.

Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, considers itself a strong advocate for Palestinian political demands. A majority of the kingdom’s citizens are of Palestinian origin.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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