Israel Politics & Diplomacy Security & Defense The Gulf
Issue Brief July 7, 2020

Israel’s growing ties with the Arab Gulf states

By Jonathan H. Ferziger, Gawdat Bahgat

Once thought to be irreconcilable adversaries, Israel and the Gulf states have grown closer in recent years. What started as under-the-table intelligence sharing designed to counter Iran’s ambitions throughout the Middle East has morphed into greater cooperation not only on security but also on economic, political, and cultural issues. The fact that the Israel-Palestinian conflict has dragged on for many decades with no end in sight has also compelled the Gulf states to leave their sympathies for the Palestinians aside in engaging with Israel. As demonstrated by recent high-level government contacts, both sides are now willing to show they have been cooperating publicly. 

In light of how much these relationships have grown, the Atlantic Council has released a new issue brief, “Israel’s Growing Ties with the Arab Gulf States,” authored by Jonathan H. Ferziger, a Jerusalem-based journalist, and Gawdat Bahgat, a professor at the National Defense University.

In the issue brief, the authors trace the development of Israel-Gulf ties over the years, outline what is preventing normalization of relations, and suggest how policymakers can help deepen cooperation in ways beneficial to both sides. They also address two of the region’s newest challenges: the coronavirus pandemic and Israel’s potential annexation of parts of the West Bank. 

For more analysis, watch the virtual discussion of this issue brief, featuring the authors as well as Anne W. Patterson, former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and Marc J. Sievers, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and former US Ambassador to Oman.

Through our Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, the Atlantic Council works with allies and partners in Europe and the wider Middle East to protect US interests, build peace and security, and unlock the human potential of the region.

Related Experts: Jonathan H. Ferziger

Image: Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks together with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in this undated handout provided by the Israel Prime Minister Office, in Oman.