Jerusalem, 8 March, 2023 (TPS) — Officials in Jerusalem and Washington are looking to expand the Abraham Accords and normalize Israel’s relations with four Arab countries.
According to Israeli media reports, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen are working with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and State Dept. diplomat Amos Hochstein to normalize Israeli relations with Indonesia, Somalia, Mauritania and Niger.
Indonesia and Somalia never had diplomatic ties with Israel. Israel did have relations with the African countries of Niger and Mauritania, but they were severed during the Second Intifada of 2002 and the Gaza war of 2008 respectively.
Indonesia, with a population of over 273 million, is the world’s largest Muslim state. Peace would open up a major South East Asian market for Israeli business. Despite the absence of ties, Indonesian pilgrims frequently visited Israel, with more than 38,000 visiting in 2019, the last full year of tourism before COVID travel restrictions began in 2020.
And in March 2022, Knesset members Avi Dichter and Nira Shpak visited Jakarta when it hosted the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference.
Somalia is located on the Horn of Africa at the southern end of the Red Sea. Peace with Somalia would potentially be strategic counterweight to the threat of Iran-backed Houthis across the Red Sea in Yemen.
Niger is a key international supplier of uranium.
The Abraham accords, signed in September 2021, normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Morocco joined the accords in December.
Sudan signed the Abraham accords in January 2021 as part of an arrangement with the US to get itself removed from a list of countries designated as state sponsors of terror. Sudan did not make any moves to normalize ties, keeping relations focused on security and intelligence cooperation. In February, Foreign Minister Cohen paid a surprise visit to Khartoum for talks on normalizing ties.
Officials in Jerusalem have frequently expressed hopes of expanding the Abraham Accords. Speculation on other countries next to make peace with Israel has at times also focused on Saudi Arabia, Oman and Libya.