What happened: Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah met with a Hamas delegation led by Ismail Haniyeh in Beirut on Saturday night.
- They both reiterated their total opposition to the Trump plan and to any Arab state normalising relations with Israel.
- According to Hezbollah: “Both sides discussed the power of ties between Hezbollah and Hamas … the relations are based on trust, brotherhood, jihad, and a shared fate. Nasrallah and Haniyeh spoke about developing mechanisms for cooperation and coordination between their organisations.”
- Commenting on the Israel-UAE agreement, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said: “Abu Dhabi’s shameful move to form an agreement with the fake Zionist regime is dangerous, and the United Arab Emirates and other countries that support it will bear the consequences”.
- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the US, Israel and the UAE agreed to form an alliance against the Iranian threat. Pompeo said: “Israel and the United Arab Emirates have found a way to build relations that could lead to the formation of a coalition against Iran, which will ultimately prevent the Iranian threat from reaching the shores of the United States or harming anyone in the Middle East.”
- On Friday Israel expanded more diplomatic ties as Kosovo and Serbia agreed to open embassies in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Kosovo will be the first Muslim majority country to open an embassy in Jerusalem. As I have been saying in recent days, the circle of peace and recognition of Israel is expanding, and additional countries are expected to join it.”
- On Saturday, the new president of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, announced plans to open a new diplomatic mission in Jerusalem.
- Last night Saudi Arabia’s King Salman spoke on the phone with US President Donald Trump. King Salman told Trump that while he appreciates US efforts to build peace in the region, Saudi Arabia wants to see a fair and permanent solution to the Palestinian issue, based on the Arab Peace Initiative (API) proposed by the king’s deceased brother in 2002.
Context: Despite Hamas (Sunni) and Hezbollah (Shiite) following different sects of Islam, ties between them have grown due to their shared animosity towards Israel and their shared patronage from Iran. Hamas leader Haniyeh travelled to Iran and took an active role at the funeral of Iranian commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US airstrike in January.
- Until now, it was Israel who had refrained from recognising Kosovo out of concern that other countries might unilaterally recognise Palestinian independence. The Serbian commitment to move their embassy to Jerusalem appeared to surprise the Serbian president during a televised announcement with President Trump in the Oval Office.
- The Saudis remain committed to the API, where Arab states would normalise ties with Israel in return for a full Israeli withdrawal to 1967 lines. However, last week the Saudi agreed to open their airspace to flights between Israel and the UAE.
- In the context of the deal with the UAE, Israeli security officials are contemplating the compensation that Israel will request from the US in exchange for its willingness to accept the sale of F-35 fighter planes and other advanced American weapons to the UAE. According to Nahum Barnea in Yediot Ahronot, “Israel is likely to ask, inter alia, that the production and delivery of weapons systems to Israel as part of the American military aid be moved up by one year. The proposal is important in security and budgetary terms, considering the economic crisis and its ramifications for the defence budget.”
Looking ahead: The agreement between Israel and the UAE is expected to be signed within the next two weeks at the White House. Axios reports that it will be a “treaty of peace” with the same legal and diplomatic status of peace agreements Israel has signed with Egypt and Jordan.
- Bahrain is strongly tipped to be the next Arab state to normalise ties with Israel but are likely to wait until after the Israel-UAE agreement is completed.