By Alexander Cornwell
DUBAI (Reuters) – Israel and Gulf Arab states should cooperate on aviation security and other civilian areas such as transportation, commercial aviation and tourism, Israel’s intelligence minister told Reuters on Thursday after a visit to Oman.
Israel Katz, who is also transport minister, was in the Omani capital Muscat this week attending a transportation conference. His visit came less than two weeks after a rare visit to the Gulf state by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said.
“In my view cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states can and should be expanded … ,” Katz told Reuters by email. “Israel also has a lot to offer when it comes to water desalination and irrigation, agriculture and medicine.”
There are no commercial passenger flights between Israel and any of the six Gulf states, though Air India this year started flights to Tel Aviv from India that seemed to lift a 70-year-old ban on flights to or from Israel from using Saudi airspace.
Israel only has diplomatic relations with two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, though Netanyahu has on several occasions hinted at warmer relations with Gulf Arab states.
Israel sees the Gulf state as natural allies against regional powerhouse Iran.
Katz said recent public visits by Israeli ministers to the Gulf “are part of a wider trend of strengthening ties between Israel and the Gulf countries based on common interests and a mutual recognition of the potential benefits for both sides, both in terms of contending with common challenges and threats as well as opportunities”.
Israeli’s army said in February it had stopped an “aerial attack abroad by Islamic State”, which Israeli media said at the time referred to the failed attempted bombing of an Etihad Airways flight in Australia in 2017.
Etihad is owned by Abu Dhabi, the capital of Gulf state the United Arab Emirates.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Alison Williams)