Israel and Arab States Declare Iran A "Common Enemy" in Warsaw Conference

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo joins the Polish Foreign Minister in a press conference at the Warsaw Conference. (flickr)

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo joins the Polish Foreign Minister in a press conference at the Warsaw Conference. (flickr)

The 2019 Conference to Promote Peace and Security was held in Warsaw, Poland on February 13 and 14 and hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. At this conference, Israel and several of its Arab neighbors acknowledged Iran’s threat to the region. The consensus marked a rare development in Israeli relations with its Arab neighbors.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saw having Arab neighbors declare Iran a “common enemy” in the region as a “momentous event” for Arab-Israeli Relations. Ambassador Dennis Ross agreed with parts of Netanyahu’s assemessent. Ross, a former envoy for Middle East peace talks during the Clinton administration, believes that Arab states are beginning to pursue their security interests, dismissing Palestinian opposition. He noted that Palestine, which opposed and did not attend the conference, could not dissuade Arab neighbors from sending envoys. Reflecting on the conference, Ross stated, “Arab states had more of an interest in arguing for unity of effort against Iran than boycotting a conference the PA [Palestinian Authority] opposed.”

During a private panel discussion, Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa asserted that Iran poses a “more toxic challenge” to the region than does Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. The moment, which was only revealed in a video supposedly leaked by Netanyahu’s office, suggests that the Arabs are beginning to lose interest in Palestinian political issues and instead prioritizing their security needs. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it “undeniable that Iranian aggression has brought Israel and its Arab neighbors closer.”

Overall, Ross believes that Arab-Israeli relations are evolving. This is highlighted by one unnamed Arab foreign minister who explained, “Israel was exercising its right of self-defense” in response to one of Ross’s questions during a moderated discussion. Such a response would have been unimaginable not long ago. Such statements of support for Israel, in addition to Netanyahu further agreeing with many of the security assessments Arab leaders made regarding Iran, may point to a newfound normalization of the Arab-Israeli relationship.