Experts on which Arab or Muslim country Bibi will visit next
JI asked Middle East experts to weigh in on which Arab or Muslim country Netanyahu will visit next.
Washington Institute’s David Makovsky: “The general conventional wisdom is that Bahrain is next in line. The Bahraini Foreign Minister has had a few public statements now, he didn’t criticize Australia’s move, and he’s also in the past said that Israel has legitimate security concerns, so I think, most people think that Bahrain is next.”
Elliott Abrams: “What are the options? The Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, not going to happen. So I think Bahrain is the one that looks possible. The image they have traditionally tried to convey is one of being a moderate and progressive country. That image has been greatly damaged in the last decade by internal repression, ever since the Arab Spring, so they might see this as a way of burnishing their image again. Any security cooperation they need can be obtained in the private sector (especially for cyber) or secretly, but they might get more after a visit. There are rumors about an Emirati visit to Israel, perhaps by the foreign minister, and though I’d love to see it right now it would surprise me.”
Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro explains the rationale behind a possible Bahraini move: “No country has gone as far as Bahrain in its rhetorical challenge to old taboos about recognizing Israel’s legitimacy. Bahrain is closely aligned with — and fully protected by — Saudi Arabia, and often its bolder strokes have the appearance of testing the waters for steps that Riyadh is considering, but not yet willing to take. If and when Bahrain does decide to host Netanyahu, it should be understood as more than a bilateral development. In all likelihood, it will also be intended to prepare the ground for an eventual Saudi-Israeli engagement.”
According to Aaron David Miller, the next move would depend on Saudi Arabia and the outcome of the April 9th elections in Israel: “The question that needs to be watched is to what degree will the Trump administration get involved in helping re-elect Benjamin Netanyahu. And to what degree would MBS, in the service of both American and Saudi objectives and diminishing his own pariah status, use a meeting with Bibi to shore up his flank in Washington and help Netanyahu get reelected. Clearly, traveling to Chad and Oman strengthens Netanyahu in the run-up to an election. He demonstrates that he’s not just capable of managing relationships with the world, but he’s reducing Israel’s isolation, particularly in the region.”
“If you envisioned a three-way meeting, including Trump and maybe other Arab leaders or even a bilateral meeting between Netanyahu and MBS, the question is when would you get the most for it? Before April 9th with no peace plan and no certainty that Netanyahu might not be indicted and then rendered to be a damaged prime minister, or alternatively, after the elections, when in fact you’ll know exactly whether or not he remains viable? If Netanyahu was not to be indicted or he is but survives and wins the election and can form a governing coalition, then there’s no doubt that the administration will go into a high drive to roll the regional peace plan out. But before April 9, if charges are brought by the Attorney General against Netanyahu and the charges are detailed and laid out before the Israeli public and his coalition partners, and they are substantive and compelling, I think that the possible stake that the Saudis and even the Americans are going to have in getting involved in this election campaign is going to diminish. If that’s the case, much of Netanyahu’s efforts to shore up his own case are going to come to an end.”