The Gulf Arab states and Israel since 1967: from ‘no negotiation’ to tacit cooperation

Uzi Rabi and Chelsi Mueller investigate the changing posture of the Gulf Arab states towards Israel, post-1967, in their latest peer-reviewed article for the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.

This article analyses the Gulf Arab states’ changing posture toward Israel since the June 1967 War. Fifty years on, the ‘three no’s’ of Khartoum have been replaced by the Saudi-coordinated Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel normalization in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Furthermore, the meaning of ‘normalization’ has been re-defined over the years in accordance with the changing geopolitical circumstances. Mutually beneficial ties between Israel and the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have grown up in proportion to their shared interests and shared threat perceptions. In the period from the 1967 War to the 1979 Egypt– Israel Peace Treaty, the Gulf Arab states, for the most part, boycotted Israel in line with pan-Arab requirements. While Iranian propaganda during the Khomeini era (1979–1989) depicted Gulf Arab rulers as lackeys of Zionism and imperialism, GCC–Israel ties were anathema. In the 1990s, the GCC lent cautious support to the Israeli–Palestinian peace process, and two of its members, Oman and Qatar, expanded trade relations with Israel in defiance of Arab and Gulf norms. The emergence of the Saudi–Iranian regional cold war after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 gave rise to unprecedented levels of tacit security and intelligence cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia.