- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Israel and its adversaries in the Persian Gulf in recent years carried out extensive secret diplomacy to coordinate policy and exchange information on the threat posed by Iran, despite both sides’ public posture of mutual hostility.

A classified 2009 diplomatic cable disclosed this week provides a rare glimpse into the secret and often high-level diplomacy between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, all countries that officially do not recognize the Jewish state.

Contrary to the condemnatory rhetoric opposing Israel in public, Arab diplomats behind the scenes have asked Israel to carry messages to the U.S. government and urged tougher action on Iran.

The March 19, 2009, cable quotes Yacov Hadas, deputy director of Israels Foreign Ministry, as telling an American diplomat: “The Gulf Arabs believe in Israel’s role because of their perception of Israel’s close relationship with the U.S., but also due to their sense that they can count on Israel against Iran.”

Mr. Hadas then says, “They believe Israel can work magic.”

Israel and the Gulf states have grown increasingly concerned in recent years about Iran’s nuclear program and that country’s support for radical political movements and terrorism throughout the Middle East.

The new disclosures by the website WikiLeaks coincide with other classified cables made public in recent days that show Arab leaders have been urging U.S. officials to take military action against Iran.

Throughout Israel’s history, the state has maintained back channels to Arab governments, even on the eve of war and during a cold peace. Nonetheless, Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab states that maintain formal diplomatic ties with Israel with full representation at the ambassador level.

That said, nearly every Arab state has had less-formal ties with Israel on and off since the beginning of the Oslo peace process in the 1990s, but those ties began to sever in 2000 with the collapse of the peace process.

Aaron David Miller, who has been a senior Middle East adviser to six secretaries of state, said every Arab country with the exception of Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Libya has had some diplomatic channel to Israel.

“With the exception of Iraq and Libya, I believe every member of the Arab League had some form of contact, informal or otherwise, with Israel up to 1996,” Mr. Miller said. “This was through multilateral fora in some cases, the Middle East North African Economic Summit, for example, it was interest sections, and it was quiet contacts as well.”

In January 2009, after Israel launched “Operation Cast Lead” against Hamas in Gaza, Qatar, the last Arab Gulf state to have open ties with Israel closed an Israeli trade office, leaving Israel with no open diplomatic channels to the Persian Gulf states that it used during the 1990s.

But as the 2009 cable shows, by March of that year, the Qataris already invited an Israeli delegation back to Doha to discuss reopening the trade mission.

Nonetheless, that same month, the queen of Qatar, Mozah Bint Nasser al Missned, hired a U.S. public relations firm, Fenton Communications, to run a public-awareness campaign in America to highlight the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.

Mr. Hadas argued that Qatar’s position on Iran was less than ideal, but did not reflect a fundamental change in its foreign policy. He even noted that Egyptian and Saudi pressure on Qatar seemed to be having an effect on the kingdom’s approach to Iran.

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