By George Grow
03 August, 2018

The Trump administration is considering setting up a military partnership with the Sunni Muslim leaders of Arab Gulf states. The proposed partnership would include the U.S., Egypt and Jordan. The six Arab Gulf states involved are Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The aim of the partnership would be to stop Iran's expansion in the Middle East.

Arab and U.S. officials say the Prime Minister of Israel has been a major supporter of calls for the partnership.

Benjamin Netanyahu has been building strong security ties with Egypt and the Sunni rulers of the Arab Gulf states. All see Iran and Islamists as threats. And they consider the threat more important than their historical support of the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel.

The Trump administration has been quietly pushing forward with the idea of the partnership, officially known as the Middle East Strategic Alliance, or MESA.

Last week, the Reuters news agency reported the Trump administration hopes MESA will be discussed at talks set to take place in Washington in October.

"Netanyahu has been a sherpa helping to guide this effort," a Gulf diplomat told VOA.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, March 5, 2018, in Washington.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, March 5, 2018, in Washington.

VOA Reporter Jamie Dettmer says the prime minister arguably has more power in U.S. politics than any Israeli leader before him. Some Israeli diplomats reportedly have said it sometimes is hard to know who is working for whom.

In July, an Israeli public broadcaster released a video of Netanyahu speaking to members of his Likud party. The Israeli leader said that he had helped to defeat European efforts to stop the United States from withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu said that he was responsible for finally persuading Trump to withdraw from the agreement.

In June, met with national leaders in Berlin, Paris and London, among other places. His assistants say the trip was part of a diplomatic campaign to get the Europeans to block Iran's expansion of its military and political influence.

Netanyahu's aides say the leaders listened more closely to the Israeli prime minister than they would have been in the past. And, the aides said his trip was successful in persuading European leaders that they need to do more to stop Iranian influence and military aims.

Improving Ties Between Israel and Russia

Netanyahu also has improved contacts with Russia and its president. Aides say Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin talk on average twice a week.

Both Trump and Putin separately praised Netanyahu during their joint press conference last month in Helsinki. Trump said, "We have worked with Israel for decades - there has never been a country closer to us, and Putin is also very close to Israel, we have both talked to Benjamin Netanyahu, and both countries want to help Israel defend itself."

Netanyahu's standing around the world is rising at a time when he finds himself in an increasingly difficult position in Israel. He has been named in several cases of suspected corruption and faced public dissatisfaction over the rising cost of living.

However, recent opinion studies have suggested that while a majority of Israelis see Netanyahu as corrupt, they would still vote for him.

I'm ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Caty Weaver.

Jamie Dettmer reported this story for VOANews. George Grow adapted his report for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

sherpa - n. someone who helps to guide mountain climbers and carry their equipment in the Himalayas

decade – n. a 10-year period

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