In a recent development that has caught the attention of regional observers, a pro-Iranian website reported on Monday that high-ranking Israeli and Mauritanian intelligence and security officials held a clandestine meeting mediated by the United Arab Emirates.
In recent months, the Arab media has been rife with reports suggesting that Israel is actively pursuing the normalization of relations with countries such as Mauritania, Somalia, Niger, Indonesia and Libya with US involvement. This latest revelation adds weight to the notion that diplomatic channels are indeed being explored behind closed doors.
Mauritania and Israel had diplomatic relations from 1999-2010. But Nouakchott severed relations which had been strained by a 2009 Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.
According to the Lebanon-based Al-Khandaq, David Meidan, a former Mossad official who currently works in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, met with an advisor to Mauritania’s intelligence chief. Al-Khandaq is close to the Iranian media and regarded as reliable.
The report said that the meeting — held at the official residence of Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed — was also arranged with the help of Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah official and rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Dahlan, a former high-level figure within Fatah, was the Palestinian Authority’s Gaza “strong man” when Hamas violently seized control of the Strip in 2007. He had a falling out with Mahmoud Abbas as he regained influence, and was expelled from Fatah in 2011. Dahlan was later tried in absentia in Ramallah on charges of corruption. Dahlan, who lives in the UAE, says the charges are politically motivated.
Meidan was Israel’s emissary for negotiations related to the Gild Shalit prisoner exchange of 2011. Israel released 1,027 PA Arab and Arab-Israeli security prisoners in exchange for the soldier, who was abducted by Hamas in 2006.
Mauritania’s relationship with Israel has been a tumultuous one. In 1999, the Western African nation became the third country, following Egypt and Jordan, to formally recognize Israel. Those ties were strained by the Gaza conflict of 2009, and under pressure from Iran, Nouakchott broke off relations the next year.
Despite opposition from some Muslim clerics in Mauritania against normalizing relations with Israel in recent years, Mauritania supported the Abraham Accords, in which the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco normalized relations with Israel in 2020.
Israel’s role in Mauritania has been historically revolved around medicine, agriculture and communications. In recent years, Tehran has submitted a number of economic projects in Western Africa aimed at bolstering Iranian influence in the region.
Israeli officials refused to comment on the Al-Khandaq report.