In early August 2009, Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faysal visited Washington. He praised the Obama administration and then hammered nails into the coffin of its Middle East policy. There was nothing subtle about the Saudi response.
For the first time, a non-radical Arab regime–that is, one nominally allied with the United States–has openly ridiculed the U.S. government’s new policy. Naturally, the prince was full of praise for the Obama administration, in general. In specific, he did the opposite, stating: “Today, Israel is trying to distract by shifting attention from the core issue–an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and the establishment of a Palestinian state–to incidental issues such as academic concerns and civil aviation methods. This is not the way to peace.”
Yet these weren’t Israeli ideas; this was the American plan presented by the Obama administration itself. It was a clear sign that the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs would not help the U.S. plan of launching major progress in the peace process by getting a freeze on Israeli construction of apartments in West Bank settlements in exchange for Arab state confidence-building measures.
The Obama Administration’s effort to launch a renewed push for Arab-Israeli peace through confidence-building measures raises the issue of Israel-Gulf relations and possible progress on that front. Could this be a front where something could be done to advance the peace process on a regional level?
After a strenuous effort, the U.S. government was able to come up only with the following: a reported offer by Oman and Qatar to reopen Israel’s trade office in their countries, and a somewhat ambiguous op-ed by a UAE official in the Washington Post.
Certainly, the prospects for any change do not look encouraging, and yet if Gulf Arab states wanted to change the situation they could easily do so. This article considers prospects for developing relations between Israel and the Persian Gulf monarchies: Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. Each country has different issues, political balances, material incentives, and constraints.
For its part, Israel has a strong interest to seek normal relations with these countries. Each state moving toward peace further tips the regional balance, making it harder for other countries and movements to attack Israel, obtain funds for arms and terrorism, or subvert the peace process. Israel can also make important (though more modest than many expect) commercial gains by trade with these wealthy countries, while there are certain products they could obtain that would benefit their economies.
Of course while there are overwhelming factors against doing so, some reasons could be cited as to why Gulf Arab monarchies might consider building bridges to Israel:
–Hope for profitable trade.
–To gain additional security against the perceived Iranian threat.
–To enhance regional stability and keep the Israel and Palestinian issues from being used by radicals to subvert their own regimes.
–For some, showing their independence from Saudi Arabian control. To some extent, Oman, the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain view the Saudis or Kuwaitis as arrogant and over-privileged, but the UAE and Bahrain are less willing to risk friction with Riyadh.
–Enhancing their relations with the United States.
These factors were seen in the 1991 Madrid conference, their support for the Saudi-initiated Arab peace plan, and also by the attendance of five of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states (Kuwait was the exception) at an August 1999 U.S.-hosted meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy. An Egyptian writer summarized these points as follows: “The Arab world is no longer as committed to the Palestinian cause as it was…. Arab regimes no longer consider defending that cause vital for their credibility with their own masses; and… they want the issue solved… so that they can become part of the new globalized world order….”
Qatar and Oman have been most active in considering opportunities to move forward again regarding relations with Israel. They did not surrender to Egyptian, Saudi, and Syrian pressure to move slowly when the peace process was advancing during the 1993-1996 era, and only gave in when the process was frozen by an Arab League decision. Even then, they tried to continue contacts behind the scenes.
There are also, though, serious factors deterring GCC states from moving toward relations with Israel:
–Criticizing, or at least keeping distance from, Israel is an easy way to show one’s Arab credentials and appease radicals, both domestic and foreign. To cite one symbolic example from the 1990s, the UAE-led threatened boycott against Disney over an Israeli exhibition on Jerusalem seemed largely a publicity stunt to show they had not forgotten the Palestinian issue completely. It is also revealing that the Saudis backed a compromise since some of their princes were big stockholders in the Disney company.
There is, of course, strong emotional support for the Palestinian cause alongside little interest in helping the Palestinians directly. Gulf Arab states are also angry at PLO backing for Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait; fearful of Hamas’s radicalism and ties with Iran; and frustrated by the divisions, corruption, incompetence, and intransigence of the Palestinian Authority.
A perceptive Gulf resident summarizes the way Gulf Arabs attempt to balance self-interest and preferences:
Because of this feeling of subjugation [by the West], the dream of an Arab solidarity which can help them overcome their present situation lives on. This dream is not fervently pursued. But the idea of an “Arab cause” or “Arab causes” is kept alive because [it provides] a hope of salvation. The fact that this dream lingers will make the Gulf Arab resent any resolution of the Palestinian question that is less than satisfactory. However, the Gulf Arabs have no history of being so motivated by a dream that they will act together to do something more than themselves.
Still, the Jerusalem issue is intensely emotional in the Gulf. There are also huge domestic pressures from public opinion opposing even the tiniest steps toward normalization or recognition of Israel. The freer the press and discussion, the more extreme the anti-Israel sentiment expressed. In addition, benefits derived from steps toward normalization are relatively small in the context of these country’s overall interests.
While one could argue that the GCC states should–and even does–see Iran as a principal threat, and thus Israel as a potential ally, most GCC leaders do not hold this view. In part, they are influenced by Islamic and pan-Arab ideas; in part, by their belief that appeasement of Tehran is a useful form of deterrence; and in part, by the domestic costs of making peace with Israel. Of course, they can also use a combination of techniques that do not require normalization of relations with Israel, notably refusing to cooperate with American peace efforts while demanding that Washington protect them from Iran.
Gulf Arab attitudes and policies toward Israel are also influenced by the area’s strategic situation. As F. Gregory Gause accurately noted, “By a conventional definition of security, that is to say protection from foreign military attack, the states of the GCC are more secure than at any time in their independent existence.”
To some extent, however, the Gulf Arabs understandably find it hard to feel secure, and inasmuch as they do feel secure (in part due to U.S. protection), they feel less of a need to punish Iran with sanctions. If the threat is reduced, many argue, why not improve relations with Tehran?
The Gulf’s security historically rested on a triangular relationship between the GCC states, Iran, and Iraq. The GCC countries knew that both Islamist Iran and Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime wanted to dominate them, destroying their independence and appropriating their financial resources. In response, the GCC had several policy alternatives, all implemented simultaneously, from the 1980s up to the fall of Saddam’s regime in 2003: dependence on Iraq against Iran, Iran against Iraq, and America against both.
With Iraq no longer a factor in the equation, their situation has changed somewhat to the following non-exclusive alternatives:
–To appease Iran.
–To seek U.S. and Western protection against Iran.
–To build up their own self-defense forces. This is the least effective option but one on which GCC countries spend billions of dollars.
–To hope that Israel will destroy Iran’s nuclear-weapons facilities.
Relations with Israel can contribute to gaining Western support and provide GCC states with another way of countering the Iranian threat. Yet they undermine the GCC states’ ability to appease successfully and domestic support.
The differences among the individual GCC states are as important–often more important–than what they have in common. Each country must be considered separately.
Oman is one of the Arab states most eager for rapprochement with Israel. Given its traditional orientation toward South Asia and very distinctive culture, Oman has always functioned differently from other Arab states. After the Camp David agreements, Oman continued to support Egypt when every other Arab state boycotted Cairo for making peace with Israel. It also desires to show its independence from Saudi Arabia. Finally, the fact that its oil production is relatively low and declining forces it to consider alternative routes to economic development.
Symbolizing Oman’s attitude is the fact that the official internet homepage of Oman’s Foreign Ministry opened for a long time in the 1990s with a picture of Sultan Qabus meeting Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Reportedly, Israel used Oman as an intermediary with Syria in late 1997 and as a potential host for bilateral negotiations.
Oman is also a place where Israeli non-governmental organizations and corporations could play an important role in helping that country. In January 1996, Oman and Israel agreed to establish trade representative offices to develop economic, scientific, and trade relations. However, in December 1996, Oman froze relations until it felt, according to that government, Israel “was genuinely and sincerely committed to honor the peace process.”
One important multinational project in which Israel has continued to participate has been the Middle East Desalination Research Center, which funds a number of research projects and training courses. There are a variety of other specialized aid areas where Israel could help Oman and consolidate relations at a low cost. The environmental area is an interesting one to explore, and one Oman expert thought Oman would be very interested in help from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and other such groups.
Saudi Arabia, it has been said, will be the last Muslim state to normalize relations with Israel. This may not be literally accurate but seems quite plausible. The Saudis prefer to stand aside on negotiations while emphasizing a disinterest in going beyond the Arab consensus. These sentiments were well-articulated by King Abdallah. While the Saudis are a “partner in the Middle East peace process” this is in their role as “an indivisible part of the Arab world.” The king continued, “I am confident that our brothers in Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon are capable of dealing with Israel in a manner that serves Arab and Muslim interests.” While the explicit message is Saudi support for its “brothers,” the real point is that the front-line states must do the work and make the concessions.
The Saudis privately–but never publicly–approach the issue with a great deal of cynicism. Following are two of many anecdotes on the subject heard directly by this author: An Israeli official secretly met a high Saudi official who opened their talks by saying, “Jerusalem must be returned to Arab rule. All right, now that’s out of the way so let’s talk seriously.” In another instance, a former U.S. government official was told by a Saudi prince and wealthy businessman, “If we could only get beyond this stage. With Israeli technology and Saudi financing we could really make the desert bloom.”
Some of the problems blocking Saudi contacts with Israel are historic, some strategic, and some factional.
Saudi Arabia’s thinking toward Israel is much affected by its extremist Islamic interpretations of government and clerics, quite hostile to Jews and Israel. Moreover, Saudi Arabia takes its role as a leader of the Muslim world very seriously. Saudi leaders have also worried about domestic responses to anything seen as too un-Islamic (including aspects of the relationship with the United States) or un-Arab.
Whatever hypocrisy is involved in Saudi support for the Palestinians, there is a sincere concern that they gain a state. Even more important, there are probably more grassroots rejectionist forces in Saudi Arabia than in almost any other Arab country. In addition, Jerusalem is an issue of particular concern for the Saudis.
There is a real public and governmental base of support, then, for the continuing deep Saudi suspicion of Israel, even the most dovish leaders in the country. For example, the newspaper al-Riyad, owned by a member of the royal family, warned, in words that might be found in the Saudi media on virtually any day during the last 50 years: “The dangers to peace come not from those who act publicly but from those who plot and execute their plans through cunning like Rabin and Peres.”
Moreover, in cultural and psychological terms, the other Gulf emirates are all dominated by a mercantile approach. They are more open to interchange with foreign cultures and place a higher priority on commerce. In contrast, Saudi Arabia is still dominated by a pastoral nomadic tradition–though this is changing–and cultivates isolation. Moreover, given its oil wealth, the Saudis don’t have to take trade or mercantile interests into account.
The Qataris, Omanis, and even other Gulf Arabs could accept an Israeli presence on their soil, but this is a traumatic concept for the Saudis, who have still not fully come to terms with even a European or American presence. It is worth remembering that even the presence of U.S. forces during the emergency created by a potential Iraqi invasion in 1990-1991 spawned Usama bin Ladin and his movement.
In addition, weak though wealthy Saudi Arabia has also tried to avoid offending radical neighbors–Iran, Syria, and Saddam when he was in power in Iraq–by avoiding steps that they oppose whenever possible. Today, the Saudis are in the more moderate camp along with Egypt, Jordan, and its fellow GCC members. They badly need U.S. support but seem to be concluding that this is not altogether dependable and so they must also appease Iran. On the peace process, issue, Saudi Arabia seems to have concluded that rejecting U.S. requests for steps toward Israel will cost nothing.
Further, Saudi Arabia does not need the main potential advantages that other Arab governments might see for making peace with Israel–profitable trade, peaceful resolution of disputes, return of territory, advantages deriving from an alliance, better links with the United States.
To make matters worse, Riyadh campaigns against normalization by other GCC states. It boycotted the August 1999 Qatar handball tournament because of the presence of an Israeli team and pressed other GCC states to do the same. Bahrain has definitely been affected by such pressures, while Qatar delights in flaunting Saudi wishes.
American efforts to pressure Saudi Arabia–themselves limited because of the U.S. interest in protecting the bilateral relationship–have been largely futile despite the Saudi need for U.S. protection and arms. It has been reliably reported that President Barack Obama was led by some advisors to believe that he would find the Saudis open to some gestures regarding Israel and then, when meeting the king, was shocked by his militant hostility to doing anything of the sort.
Whatever the Bahraini government thinks about Israel or confidence-building steps, it is restrained by its patron, Saudi Arabia, and by domestic politics (a Shi’a majority that would seize on the issue to attack the regime).
A minority Sunni government rules a Shi’a majority, which is both somewhat uncomfortable with this situation and to some extent looks to Iran for inspiration. Iran is a direct threat to Bahrain–given its claim on its territory–than for any other GCC member, a factor that simultaneously requires Bahrain to seek protection and to tread warily. Any step toward normalization with Israel could trigger large-scale Iranian subversion.
Additional problems stem from Bahrain’s dependence on Saudi Arabia. Since Bahrain is the only GCC state with neither oil nor natural gas reserves, it needs Saudi consumers. The causeway linking the two countries has also brought them closer together. To ensure Bahraini compliance, the Saudis even gave that country a portion of one of their own oilfields. In strategic terms, the Saudis support Bahrain’s internal stability and its defense against Iran.
By helping find alternatives for Bahrain’s situation, the United States (and perhaps Europe) could perhaps give Bahrain more of a free hand regarding Israel, though this should not be exaggerated. Still, if it were not for ideology, religion, regional politics, and domestic factors–which are an overwhelming combination–Bahrain would be a prime candidate for better relations with Israel. It is a banking and mercantile center, far more socially liberal and secular than Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. The government wants to make Bahrain the educational and training hub for the Gulf. A U.S. naval base is long-established, welcomed even when the other Gulf Arab states rejected any direct American presence. Bahrain has even given the right of residence to some Jews who had fled Iraq. In addition, Bahrain’s Ambassador to the United States, Houda Nonoo, is a Jewish woman.
The internal situation has improved since the end of the low-level insurgency that caused sporadic violence mainly between 1994 and 1996. The government used force, but the emir also showed flexibility toward the Shi’a, offering jobs, local development, and a bit more democracy. In the spirit of Bahrain, it is a pragmatic and unideological government.
A past example of this openness was the invitation of Bahrain’s Minister of Labor to the international Jewish ORT organization to advise the government on upgrading the country’s vocational education system in 1996. An ORT team met with several Bahraini officials and managers, issuing a report that made detailed recommendations for improvements.
In addition, Bahrain is ready to host Israelis in the context of multilateral meetings, something that would be unthinkable for the Kuwaitis or Saudis. Israeli approaches to Bahrain would benefit from a lower-profile style compared to Qatar and Oman, focusing on both commercial relations and specific, small-scale technical aid. If the Saudi opposition can be circumvented, real progress in bilateral relations could be possible.
In addition, Bahrain is well aware that Dubai is ahead of it as a trade and re-export center. Israeli business could give Bahrain an edge in the competition. Still, one should have no illusions that any change of Bahrain’s policy would be easy or even likely under any conditions.
Qatar, despite its small size and relative weakness, has been the boldest of the Gulf states in defying the Saudis, befriending the Iranians, and–to a far lesser degree–moving toward contacts with Israel. This is due to a combination of disparate factors:
The Qataris desire to show independence from Saudi Arabia, seeming to enjoy angering Riyadh on a range of issues, including their ownership of the radical Al-Jazeera television network, which has had reasonably open coverage of Israel and has given airtime to Saudi dissidents. The Qataris have also helped Hamas against Fatah (though they hosted the ultimately failed cooperation talks between the two Palestinian groups), and participated in the radical Arab summit group with Syria rather than the moderate bloc meeting with Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Regarding contacts with Israel, being very homogeneous in its population, with a large royal family, and enjoying much stability, the Qatari government is less concerned about domestic opposition to detente with Israel. Further, as the smallest, least populous Gulf state, it suffers from something of an inferiority complex as an extremely small, culturally or politically undistinguished state.
Given its border disputes with Saudi Arabia and friction with the UAE, Qatar has an interest in finding a special ally outside the Gulf Arab circle, which means Iran to a large extent and Israel to a very small extent. Aside from strategic considerations, the Qatari royal family seems to enjoy snubbing its nose at the Saudis whenever possible. The two countries are also in competition in finding customers for their natural gas.
In August 1999, for example, Qatari Emir Shaykh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani went to Gaza, becoming the first Gulf monarch to visit the Palestinian territories, being permitted to fly through Israeli airspace. This visit thus also marked a thaw in Israeli-Qatari relations. He endorsed the Palestinian “peaceful struggle” for a state and announced $900,000 in donations for an east Jerusalem hospital and the Islamic University in Gaza.
The Qataris are not shy about defending their policy. Shaykh al-Thani told Lebanon’s parliament, “Peace in our opinion should not be from one side and its benefits should not be limited to one side without the other. Thus, we look forward to the day where genuine, comprehensive, just and balanced peace is achieved in the region so that we can talk about its security, stability and prosperity benefits.”
Later that month, Qatar hosted the Israeli handball team at the World Youth Handball Competition, despite heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia (Bahrain also boycotted the game). While the Qatari press criticized Israeli participation–and endorsed a boycott–members of the royal family defended it.
The most important official form of relations was through the Israeli trade mission, which opened in July 1996 and quietly remained in Qatar throughout the period of the “freeze.” When it was evicted from its office–the landlord claimed Israeli security was disrupting the other residents’ lives–the Qatari government helped it find new premises. In response to a request from Obama, the Qataris indicated that in 2009 they might be willing to let the trade office function openly again.
Qatar has been willing to ignore both Iranian and Saudi criticism of its relationship with Israel, and neither of these neighbors has punished Qatar for doing so. A large number of deals have been discussed between Qatari and Israeli businesspeople. Joint ventures discussed–though none have borne fruit so far–include such products as grain, plastic, aluminum, and solar energy production. Qatar has also at times suggested it might sell Israel natural gas.
The UAE is a federation of seven emirates in which Abu Dhabi plays the leading role and Dubai is the most commercially advanced. The UAE has the second largest petroleum reserves and the fourth largest natural gas reserves in the world. There are rivalries among emirates and some dynastic quarrels, but basic stability is fairly secure.
Dubai’s commercial interests have made it the most active portion of the UAE in supporting a relationship with Israel. By the same token, Dubai is the main force in the UAE pressing for better relations with Iran, for whose goods it has become a vital outlet. Its driving impetus is mercantile pragmatism.
In contrast, Abu Dhabi has been the more purely oil-based sheikdom. It has a conflict with Iran, which seized its three strategic islands in the Gulf in 1971. As a result, the UAE has been closer to Iraq, even when it was ruled by Saddam Hussein, in order to balance off Iran. Yet Abu Dhabi also has large-scale commercial ambitions, fueled by Dubai’s relative success. Given these two emirates’ desire to seem normal, advanced, rich, and secure places, does the UAE really want to continue giving the impression that it lives in a zone of crisis and maintains a rejectionist stand toward Israel?
Attitudes toward the Saudis are both positive and negative. On one hand, there are some different and even clashing interests. For example, a 1999 Iranian Saudi statement implying Riyadh’s support for Iran’s claim to the three islands upset UAE leaders. On the other hand, the Saudis sometimes meddle in UAE politics and play the sheikhdoms off against each other. Abu Dhabi had to give up a lot of land and oilfields to Saudi Arabia in the 1970s and early 1990s to get the Saudis to drop their own claims to Abu Dhabi’s territory. As one UAE professor put it, “The pervasive influence of Saudi Arabia can be detected in almost every aspect of UAE foreign policy. However, the differences between the two countries are an indication that the UAE is able to follow its own course when circumstances require it.”
The bottom line is that, unlike Bahrain, the UAE does not boycott Israel because of Saudi pressure. However, equally–unlike Qatar–it has not sought open contacts with Israel in order to annoy and balance off the Saudis. It also knows the United States will protect it even if the UAE ignores American requests regarding Israel. Somewhat irrationally, the UAE also fears the United States is trying to “take over” the country. The UAE seems to be the GCC member with the most disagreements and suspicions regarding U.S. policy, despite the important bilateral security and economic ties.
Moreover, precisely because of its fear of Iran, the UAE is careful to stay within the Arab consensus on all issues involving the peace process and Arab-Israeli conflict and to voice all the “politically correct” sentiments. They are always on record supporting the Palestinian and Syrian positions, condemning Israeli policies and actions.
It has been said that the interests of the UAE and Israel coincide. Both want regional stability, and both are threatened by Iran. The problem, however, is that the UAE doesn’t necessarily think this way.
Domestic public opinion is also very militant on the Palestinian issue. The UAE was one of the first states to back the 1970s oil embargo and the most enthusiastic about boycotting Disney in 1999. There is also a particular obsession with the alleged threat from Israel’s nuclear capacity.
The UAE did drop the indirect boycotts against Israel and, as one former resident put it “there is some recognition that there are potential economic benefits for normalizing relations with Israel.” Israeli approaches to the UAE are very difficult because of all these political problems, which will not disappear quickly even if the peace process ever advances.
Next to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait has the greatest historic antagonism toward Israel. This is not understandable in terms of Kuwait’s own history but is probably due to the great influence of the Palestinian community there. After all, Kuwait was where Yasir Arafat lived and founded Fatah. The country’s experiment in democracy, the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1991 (because Arafat supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion and takeover of Kuwait), and the country’s dependence on the United States for protection do not seem to have changed that orientation very much, if at all.
Despite these facts, Kuwait still views hostility to Israel as a sign of its Arab credentials, though domestic demagoguery also plays a role. Sources report that Kuwait was the only GCC state opposed to sending a collective representative to the 1991 Madrid talks with Israel. Equally, Kuwait was the only GCC state not to attend the 1999 Arab meeting with Foreign Minister David Levy at the United Nations.
This brief survey points to the central problem in trying to get Gulf Arab participation in any peace process with Israel. On one hand, these states are relatively moderate politically, fear Iran, need the United States, worry about radical Islamism, and are relatively pragmatic in their pursuit of profits–energy or mercantile-based. They want regional stability, the triumph of capitalism, high living standards, and the defeat of Islamism and radical Arab nationalism. As they invest more in the West, Western interests become more important for them as well. They would thus seem natural supporters for peace with Israel, based on pragmatic strategic and economic interests.
Of course this is only part of the picture. They are also culturally and religiously very traditional; their people and elites hold very negative stereotypes about Jews and Israel; they are prone to radical destabilization, which can be held at bay by professing properly Arab nationalist and Islamic values; and they are interested in appeasing Iran.
Therefore, they would seem natural supporters for continuing the conflict with Israel, based on equally–even more–real interests. The ideal situation is that the conflict continues but they don’t have to fight it, except verbally and through financial donations. The status quo offers a large margin of safety; changing it is potentially fatal. This is why Obama has found so little support for his effort to bring the Gulf Arab states into the peace process.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle East (Routledge), The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).
 Shaikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, “Arabs Need to Talk to the Israelis,” Washington Post, July 16, 2009, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/16/AR2009071602737.html.
 A superb source of information on doing business in these countries are the Country Reports on Economic Policy and Trade Practices published by the U.S. State Department. The reports include a detailed breakdown, for example, of all current major commercial projects, government contacts, and local regulations.
 Publicly, Gulf regimes–especially the Saudis–talk about an “Israeli threat” to the region, but this seems more demagoguery aimed at the public than a serious expectation.
 Saudi influence can be described as high in Kuwait and Bahrain; medium in the UAE; and low in Qatar and Oman.
 Muhammad Sid-Ahmed in al-Ahram Weekly, September 23-29, 1999.
 Private communication.
 It should be noted that campaigning on Jerusalem is seen as an Islamic stand and not a pro-Palestinian position.
 F. Gregory Gause, III, “The Political Economy of National Security in the GCC States,” in Gary Sick and Lawrence Potter (eds.), The Persian Gulf at the Millennium (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1997), p. 61.
 Peter Kenyon, “Gulf States Stuck Between U.S., Iran on Nuclear Issue,” NPR, August 27, 2009, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112286218.
 Anti-Western feeling has been almost totally absent. It did not hesitate to seek Western help against the Dhofar Rebellion in the 1970s. In contrast to other Arab states, its primary religion is “fiver” Shi’ism.
 Thus, Oman saw no contradiction from being the most active GCC state in building relations with Israel while also having been most positive about maintaining good relations with Islamic Iran, at a time when most other GCC states opposed this policy.
 In 1994, Oman hosted the fifth meeting of the UN Peace Conference. On the recommendation of the working group on water resources, it was decided to establish a desalination research center in the sultanate to help in the search for peace and economic prosperity in the region. Oman and the United States committed $3 million each toward a center to be situated in the Wilayat of Barka.
 Al-Sharq al-Awsat, June 1, 1999.
 Al-Riyad, cited in Agence France Presse (AFP), May 18, 1999.
 Bahrain Names Jewish Ambassador, BBC News, May 29, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7426806.stm.
 See ORT’s report at: http://www.icd.ort.org. Recommendations included: much greater use of educational technology, an open learning system, encouragement of problem solving, wider access to vocational education, and greater international networking.
 Reuters, August 8, 1999; Ha’aretz, August 9, 1999.
 Middle East News Line, August 10, 1999.
 Brian Scudder, “Israel Knocks, GCC Ponders,” Gulf Business, Vol. 4, No. 4 (August 1999).
 The members are: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al-Khaymah, Fujayrah, Umm al-Qaywan, and Ajman.
 For an excellent survey of the UAE’s current problems and politics, see Sean Foley, “The UAE: Political Issues and Security Dilemmas,” Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA), Vol. 3, No 1 (February 1999), http://www.gloria-center.org/meria/1999/03/foley.pdf. Some interesting material can also be found in the transcript of a June 1999 Middle East Policy forum on the UAE.
 The Tunb islands are claimed by Ras al-Khayma; Sharjah claims Abu Musa island. Both are also more hostile toward Iran, though Sharjah to a lesser extent.
 Hassan H. Al Alkim (professor of international relations, University of the UAE, al-Ain), “UAE Policy Toward the Sub Regional Powers,” Middle East Policy (June 1999).
 For details on the UAE’s economic ties with the United States, see Michael Moore, The U.S.-UAE Trade and Investment Relationship: 2009 Update, U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council (March 2009), http://www.usuaebusiness.org/view/resources/uploaded/US_UAE_BC_Moore_Paper_V4.pdf.