Netanyahu: Cooperation With Mideast Countries Could Advance the Peace Process

Prime minister tells Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Iran is main threat facing Israel; due to meet British, Estonian foreign ministers Wednesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, February 19, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Wednesday that Iran is the main threat facing Israel, and because of this threat “shared interests are emerging” between Israel and many countries in the region, which could in turn help to advance the peace process with the Palestinians.

“The force we have to contend with is mainly this: Iran and its offshoots, more and more Hamas, supplying arms, development of weaponry and general aggression in the region and beyond” said Netanyahu, who will fly to Moscow Thursday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "In the face of this common threat, shared interests are emerging between us and many countries in the region. I believe in nurturing these interests. Ultimately, if we act wisely, it could help us achieve greater normalization in the region and develop more helpful channels for political processes with our Palestinian neighbors.”

Netnanyahu told the committee that he will be meeting with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Jerusalem later on Wednesday. He added that he will also be hosting the Estonian foreign minister.

“This is typical day,” he said. “Israel is a well-courted and wanted state when it comes to technological, cyber-intelligence and military might. These things are expressed in international forums. Not always, like it happened with the Obama administration in the [United Nations] Security Council.”

This week Haaretz reported that six months ago Netanyahu gave Zionist Union Chairman Isaac Herzog a document with a joint declaration that was supposed to jumpstart a regional peace initiative and serve as a basis for establishing a unity government. The document included statements by Netanyahu indicating his willingness to accept territorial compromises on the basis of the two-state solution and significantly rein in settlement construction.

The paper, which was given to Herzog by Netanyahu on September 13, after two days of contacts between the parties, was a draft of a joint declaration the two were supposed to make at a summit in Cairo or Sharm el-Sheikh together with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, and possibly with Jordan’s King Abdullah, about three weeks later, in early October 2016. The contacts between Netanyahu and Herzog came to a dead end when the prime minister began retreating from the initiative due to the political crisis over the Amona outpost, and in mid-October were completely dropped.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson greets Benjamin Netanyahu at the Foreign Office in London, February 6, 2017.
Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP

Two days ago, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the United States conveyed a message to the government that West Bank annexation would cause a crisis with the administration in Washington. “We received a very direct message: ‘Applying Israeli sovereignty would mean an immediate crisis with the new administration,’” said Lieberman. “The coalition must make it perfectly clear that it does not intend to do so.”