American and Israeli officials revealed Wednesday that White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Tony Blinken met with Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi last week to discuss the potential opening of Omani airspace to Israeli airlines and other related issues. The latest developments between the United States, Israel, and Oman come as the Islamic Republic of Iran launched a drone attack on an Israeli-affiliated oil tanker off the coast of Oman.
According to reports, the decision by the Biden administration to pursue such actions revolves around the move by Saudi Arabia in July, where the Saudi government allowed Israeli airlines to use its airspace for eastbound flights to India and China. Officials say that this was a significant step on the path toward normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and one of the achievements of President Biden’s trip to the Kingdom. However, without permission from Oman, the routes for Israeli airlines are blocked, and the Saudi move becomes meaningless, according to officials.
Senior Israeli officials have recently met with Oman’s Minister Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood al-Busaidi to advance ties and boost regional cooperation. An official Israeli Foreign Ministry document said that the meeting took place on the sidelines of the MEDRC forum in Oman and included Israel’s Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General and Head of the Middle East & Peace Process Division.
According to reports, the Sultanate wants to differentiate itself from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, “seeking a separate and direct link to Jerusalem” with an emphasis on economic peace and in line with guidelines from Saudi Arabia, according to a-Busaidi.
A concerning issue on Israel’s agenda is the future opening of Oman’s skies to Israeli flights. Securing passage over the skies of the Persian Gulf Arab country is necessary to take advantage of Saudi Arabia’s announcement of opening its airspace to Israeli flights. The case was raised in the meeting with al-Busaidi, but no breakthrough has been made so far.
Reports indicate that the Omani minister stressed his country prefers to have an active but quiet involvement in the region, enabling it to maintain a direct dialogue with Israel and the Palestinians. Israel has invited Oman to join the Negev Forum and cooperate in a number of regional projects with an emphasis on those benefiting Palestinians.
During a phone call with outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid in July, al-Busaidi said that his country “will not be the third Gulf nation to normalize ties with Israel” but added that the Sultanate will support “a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace on the basis of the two-state solution.”
While American and Israeli officials have been talking with Omani counterparts since July, the Omanis have demanded that a strategic dialogue between the countries must focus on education and cultural exchange, trade and investment, and renewable energy. During the Omani foreign minister’s visit to Washington last week, the strategic dialogue took place for the first time, and several other issues, including Yemen and regional security, were discussed.
Since the signing of the Abraham Accords under the Trump administration between Israel, Bahrain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan, the U.S. and Israel have hoped that more Arab states would join with Israel in opening economic and military cooperation in the Middle East. With the Islamic Republic of Iran strengthening its terrorist proxies throughout the region, Israel and its Arab allies have grown closer to each other, opening up commercial airlines and engaging in military drills. With Oman geographically close to Iran, new relations would allow Israel to operate in the country against the Ayatollahs and guard its interest in the Persian Gulf, according to experts.