Tuesday January 8, 2019
By ADAM RASGON
Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi arrives to attend the 136th ordinary meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), on September 15, 2015, in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP Photo/Fayez Nureldine/File)
Yusuf bin Alawi makes comment two months after Netanyahu visits Oman; last formal peace talks between Israel, Palestinians broke down in 2014
Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi said if Israelis and Palestinians wish to achieve peace they must be willing to look past their bloody histories.
“If they are really interested in making peace, they should look to the future and do not talk about the past,” Bin Alawi told This is America and the World with Dennis Wholey, a television program broadcast in the US, late last week.
The comment appeared to mark a repudiation of claims on both sides that rest on deep historical bonds to the land and to Jerusalem, which have proven to be some of the conflict’s most intractable issues. It may have also been aimed at Palestinian demands that refugees who left their homes in the 1947-1949 War of Independence be allowed to return, a demand that Israel considers a non-starter, as it would spell the end of the state’s Jewish character.
Bin Alawi made the comment some two months after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman, where he met Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
The previous public visit by an Israeli prime minister to Oman took place more than two decades ago.
Bin Alawi has defended Muscat’s decisions to welcome Netanyahu to Oman.
When Al-Jazeera, a Doha-based television station, asked him in October why Oman hosted Netanyahu, he responded, “Why did [Oman] receive him? Is that forbidden? That is not forbidden…The reason is that the State of Israel is a country of the countries in the Middle East and the Israeli prime minister had made clear he was interested in visiting the Sultanate and telling our ruler what he believes is right for the Middle East, especially regarding the Israel-Palestinian dispute.”
During his visit, Netanyahu told Qaboos that he is ready to cede territory, but not security control, to the Palestinians, Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Palestinian official, told The Times of Israel in early December.
Ahmad said Bin Alawi briefed Abbas on what Netanyahu had told Qaboos when he visited the PA president in Ramallah in late October.
According to Ahmad, Abbas told bin Alawi that Netanyahu was not serious about reaching a deal with the Palestinians.
“Abbas told the Omani foreign minister that what Netanyahu said is old talk that he often repeats,” Ahmad said. “He told him that what he said is a form of deception and that Netanyahu is not serious about peace.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman in the Gulf state, on October 26, 2018. (Courtesy)
When asked in December about Ahmad’s remarks, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment.
The last round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which were sponsored by the US, collapsed in May 2014.
Many officials in American President Donald Trump’s administration have said that the US intends to publish a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu has said he will look at the apparently forthcoming peace plan with an “open mind,” while Abbas has vowed not to consider any US proposal.
Since shortly after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and initiated the relocation of the US Embassy in the Jewish state to the city, Abbas declared that the Palestinians will no longer work with an American-dominated peace process, and called for the establishment of a multilateral mechanism for it.
In the past year, he has invited a number of countries around the world to take part in a multilateral mechanism for the peace process.