Four Israeli ministers visit Gulf states in a single week - and without headscarves (& ‘Mossad’ Bolsonaro sons)

November 10, 2018


This image of Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s sons, Eduardo and Carlos, sporting IDF and Mossad t-shirts on their visit to Israel, has gone viral.

Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsonaro is strongly pro-Israel, and one of his promises during his recent election campaign was to move Brazil’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, one of several policies that has sparked anger on the Israeli and American Jewish far left.

Haaretz newspaper has been running a campaign against Bolsonaro, even including a massive banner headline “Hitler in Brasilia”, while the New York Times ran a top-of-the-page comment piece claiming “Swastikas have been painted on walls all over the city” [Sao Paulo].

I checked with two different trusted Brazilian Jewish friends of mine who live in Sao Paulo whether any of this might be true, and they wrote that this scaremongering was “nonsense” and that “Bolsonaro is genuine philo-Semite” and “his first foreign policy objective is to realign Brazil’s relations with Japan, Chile, Israel, and the US – at the expense of Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, and the Palestinian Authority”.

Tom Gross adds: Brazil is the most important country in South America, and the eighth largest economy in the world. The previous left-wing government of Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached on corruption charges, was very anti-Israel, even taking the rare step of refusing to approve Israel’s choice as ambassador, Danny Dayan, who instead became Israel’s Consul General in New York.



[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow up to the recent dispatch:
Netanyahu returns from secret, but official, trip to Oman (October 26, 2018)


On Wednesday, Israeli Transport Minister Yisrael Katz became the fourth Likud party official in the space of a week, to receive a warm welcome in a Gulf Arab state with which Israel officially has no relations.

At the urging of the Trump administration and the Saudis, Katz was invited to a conference in Muscat attended by officials from across the Arab world, where he presented Israeli proposals for a new railway to link the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf states.

Katz said the “Tracks of Peace” rail project is “based on two central ideas: Israel as a land bridge and Jordan as a regional transportation hub”.

Katz said the project “is beyond political and ideological disagreements,” and would add tens of billions of dollars to regional trade.

Dozens of senior officials attended Katz’s speech, including transport ministers and ministry director generals from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Qatar, Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, and Yemen.

The project envisages goods being shipped to the Middle East via Israel’s Mediterranean seaports. The goods would be transported via rail from Israel, through the West Bank, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and on to the Persian Gulf. The Netanyahu government has suggested that a large modern inland port be built in Jordan to handle regional trade, contributing significantly to the Jordanian economy.

Katz said the project would also help the Palestinian economy as well as other Arab economies and allow Sunni Gulf states to bypass security threats from Iran in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab.

Donald Trump’s Special Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said the US administration believed the proposal was a good idea.



The mainstream American media, which generally dislikes Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Likud party, has long argued – wrongly in my view, as I have written many times – that peace with the Palestinians can only come first rather than be arrived at as a result of a wider Arab-Israeli peace.

However, several previously hostile commentators have begun to notice that the leadership of almost the entire Arab world has long agreed with Netanyahu’s point of view, and that the refusal, year after year, of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate with Israel, let alone accept repeated offers of an independent Palestinian state, should not hold up their own relations with Israel.

Writing in The Atlantic last week, former Clinton Middle East advisor Aaron David Miller, noted that:

“Netanyahu and his right-wing government are reversing the notion that only peace with the Palestinians can ensure Israel’s acceptance into an angry and hostile Arab world.”



Note that Gulf Arab leaders seemed to have no problem with Miri Regev not wearing a headscarf (photo above, although they did blur out her legs from official photographs). And likewise the Israeli prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu was welcomed and shook hands with the Sultan of Oman without wearing a head covering (photo below).

By contrast, left-liberal European and American female politicians have often been overly deferential to Gulf Arab male leaders, thereby greatly disappointing Arab feminists and liberal reformers.




Last week, Israeli Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev – one of the Israeli government’s most vocal hardliners, whose positions are to the right of Netanyahu – became the first senior Israeli official to visit Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, at the invitation of the country’s political and religious leadership.

She also attended the International Judo Federation’s Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi where Israeli athletes won two gold medals and the Israeli national anthem (HaTikva) was played and the Israeli flag raised.

Also notable about her visit is that her hosts did not mind that she didn’t wear a headscarf, and therefore she became just about the first prominent visiting female politician not to do so (in contrast to female European politicians, Hillary Clinton, and others, who donned head scarves) when visiting the Gulf.

The Israeli prime minister’s wife Sara Netanyahu was also permitted to shake hands with the Sultan of Oman on her recent visit there without wearing a head covering.

On Tuesday, another Likud minister, Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, spoke at a telecommunications conference in the UAE, and an Israeli gymnastics team competed in Qatar.



Tom Gross adds:

Having been one of the few non-government outsiders to regularly attend various semi-secretive gatherings between senior Arab and Israeli political and military figures over the years, I have long observed that the Arab officials in attendance, including those from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, have always preferred to deal with politicians from the Israeli right than those left-wing Israeli attendees who spent most of the time berating and criticizing their own country.

Western friends of mine, who tend to be left-wing, have disbelieved me when I say that almost without exception, the Arab attendees like and respect Donald Trump and disliked Obama. But that has indeed been the case.

The Arab leaders in attendance have wanted to know where they stand with American and Israeli politicians and seemed to prefer dealing with those who are clear about and stand up for their own national identity and interests (whatever that may in fact mean).

Those saying negative things about Trump at such meetings have been the handful of European government officials in attendance.

None of this means that a warm peace is necessarily about to break out between Israel and the Arab world – only that there is a better chance of it happening when enemies (i.e. hardliners on both sides) speak to each with mutual respect.

There is also a chance that the Palestinian Authority will in effect be forced by the Arab world (and the current US administration) to stop rejecting Israeli offers for independent Palestinian statehood in which the Palestinians, like the Israelis, have to make concessions.

The Palestinian leadership may be cajoled into accepting the forthcoming Trump peace plan by the leaders of the Arab world, in a way that they would never be by European governments who are not prepared to reduce funding to the PA, however much that funding is squandered through corruption, or used to finance terrorism.


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