Qatar Crisis Opens Up Opportunities for Israel, Lieberman Says

Israeli defense chief says rift is an opportunity for cooperation between Israel and moderate Arab states in fight against terrorism

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, June 5, 2017
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, June 5, 2017 Emil Salman

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday that the diplomatic rift between Qatar and fellow Arab countries in the region opens up opportunities for cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

"Israel is more than open to cooperation. The ball is currently on the other side." he told lawmakers at the Knesset.

"The Arab countries that cut off their diplomatic relations with Qatar did not do so because of Israel and not because of the Palestinian issue but because of their fear of radical Islamic terrorism, " the defense chief said.

Commenting on the implications of the dipolomatic rift, he said, "there is no doubt that this opens up many possibilities for cooperation in the fight against terrorism. We saw the president of the United States visit Saudi Arabia and speak first and foremost about a coalition against terrorism."

According to Lieberman, attempts at linking a solution to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict and Israel's relations with other Middle East nations is a mistake.

"Any attempt to link the Palestinian issue to Israel's bilateral relations with the moderate Arab states is simply a mistaken approach. The fact is that we signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan had nothing to do with the Palestinian issue. There was a connection, but without waiting for a solution. Here too, it is forbidden to condition the development of ties with the moderate Arab states on the resolution of the Palestinian issue."

Commenting on the recent U.S.-Saudi arms deal, whereby $110 billion worth of U.S. equipment was sold to the Middle East country, he said, "our job is not to prevent transactions between the U.S. and moderate Arab countries, but rather to improve the qualitative gap. In 2016, a total of $216 billion was sold here, even before the last visit." 

The arms deal reportedly included including includes tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems and cybersecurity technology.

"In 2017 we will pass this record. We dealt with the deal before it became known to the general public, while we are still handling it today." he said.

According to the minister, Israel will be able to maintain the qualitative gap. "I think there is also a listening ear on the other side," he said.

The defense minister also spoke on the topic of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, saying that the situation will not be improved until Hamas allows representatives of the International Red Cross to meet with two Israeli civilians that are currently being held by the group.

It is believed that Avraham Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, two Israeli citizens that entered the enclave several years ago and who suffer from mental illness are being held, as are the bodies of two IDF soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin.