Netanyahu: Leaders' Overtures at Warsaw Confab Prepare Arab Public to Accept Normalization of Israel Ties

Arab foreign ministers came and 'spoke blatantly against Iran and about Israel's right to defend itself' and this is a 'momentous event,' Netanyahu says

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts during a bilateral meeting with United States Vice President Mike Pence in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, February 14, 2019.
AP Photo/Michael Sohn

WARSAW - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that statements by Arab leaders at the Warsaw conference on the Middle East which he is attending have laid the groundwork for the Arab public to accept nornalization of ties with Israel.

Arab foreign ministers speaking in front of the world together with Israel about a common enemy is a "process of legitimization of a global and Arab public opinion," the premier noted. 

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Netanyahu also said that for him, witnessing Arab leaders publicly declaring that Israel has a right to defend itself and that they share Iran as a common enemy was a "momentous event."

The prime minister mentioned that Arab foreign ministers came to the Warsaw Conference and "spoke blatantly against Iran and about Israel's right to defend itself."

Representatives from Oman, Morocco, Saudi Arabic, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Kuwait attended the conference.

"Something huge is happening here," Netanyahu said, insisting that focusing on the Palestinian issue is barking up the wrong tree when the possibility that Iran will get nuclear weapons is at stake, and boasting that "a representative of an Arab country said in front of sixty countries that Israel has the right to defend itself" is a "momentous event."

The premier added that while he won't go into details on what happened in his meetings, he brought up the issue at "high levels." He said the Arab foreign ministers are looking for practical solutions and added: "I have such solutions that I won't detail here in public."

The head of the National Security Council added that several important things happened at the conference, including the joint stance against Iran, led by the U.S. together with Israel, "the recognition that the main threat is Iran, a call for practical steps and for Europeans to not be naïve."

Netanyahu also said that he had asked the leaders for sanction on Iran's Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force and on Lebanon's Hezbollah.

On the Israel-Palestine issue, Netanyahu said he had never talked about reaching peace with Arab countries "before solving the Palestinian issue," adding: "But I did say we would continue with normalization and flights [over Arab countries], diplomatic steps or changes in public opinion, slowly and gradually."

Netanyahu added that he will not condition the relationship with Arab countries on progress with the Palestinians, saying: "The Arab world isn't happy with Abu Mazen either," referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Earlier, Netanyahu said he won't judge the peace plan that the U.S. administration is expected to present before he sees it, and hopes the Palestinians will do the same and added: "I look forward to seeing the plan once it is presented. I have to say that I know that the Trump administration seeks to ensure the security of Israel for generations."

Jared Kushner, senior aide to U.S. President Donald Trump said at the conference that both Israel and the Palestinians will have to compromise in the administration's peace plan, which will be presented after the upcoming Israeli election in April.