Netanyahu: 'Revolution' in Arab Ties Could Advance Peace With Palestinians

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 2016.Credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Israel’s growing normalization with the Arab world could facilitate peace with the Palestinians, Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday.

There has been “a revolution in our relations with important Arab states,” the prime minister said at a commencement of the National Security College, outside Tel Aviv. He said these states now recognize that Israel isn’t an enemy, but an ally against the rising threat of Islamic extremism as embodied in the Islamic State movement.

“I think this has another advantage,” Netanyahu added. “We have always said that the moment we solve or make progress or have a breakthrough in peaceful relations with the Palestinians, we’ll be able to achieve peaceful relations with the entire Arab world. There’s no doubt this is always true — but more and more, I think this process could also run in the opposite direction: The normalization of advancing relations with the Arab world could help to advance peace — a more sober, stable and better-backed peace — between us and the Palestinians.”

Netanyahu said that preserving the peace with Jordan and Egypt was “essential to Israel’s future.”

This week, the Bloomberg news agency quoted a former senior Israeli official as saying that Israel had carried out drone strikes in Sinai with Egypt’s consent. Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan told Bloomberg that “the level of cooperation” with Egypt “is something we’ve never experienced before.”

In related news, the Hadash party yesterday publicly condemned Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry for visiting Israel and meeting with Netanyahu.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, July 10, 2016.Credit: AP / Dan Balilty

Hadash is one of the three parties comprising the Joint List.

Shoukry’s visit was “surprising” at a time when the government “is entrenching itself in its open rejection of peace and its efforts to destroy the two-state solution and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian Arab nation,” the party said in a press statement.

It said that the guidelines of the coalition government, along with “repeated statements by Netanyahu and his ministers, and by opposition leader [Isaac] Herzog, the occupation army and the settlers, all attest that Israel isn’t heading toward ending the occupation.”

Moreover, it charged, the government, “which rejects every diplomatic initiative, including the Arab Peace Initiative, is exploiting its ties with Arab states and its open alliance with Turkey and the Gulf states to enact a program against the Palestinian people, with no diplomatic or economic price. The attempt to market this alliance in the guise of a diplomatic initiative constitutes throwing sand in people’s eyes.”

Continuing, the statement said: “We’ve warned against this dubious alliance with Israel in the context of the plan to topple Syria and the forces that stand behind it.

“This is an alliance that undermines a just peace and real stability in the region, as well as the national and historical rights of the Palestinian Arab people.”

A spokesman for the Joint List stressed that this statement represents only the views of the five Hadash Knesset members and not the other eight MKs from the alliance.

Hadash chairman Ayman Odeh is considered very close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The PA was also unhappy over the timing of Shoukry’s visit, but has refrained from saying so publicly.

Hadash MK Aida Touma-Suleiman echoed the press statement in the Knesset yesterday, charging that Shoukry’s visit burnished Netanyahu’s image just when “the government is entrenching itself in its positions.”