PM addresses Israeli diplomats from Asia, Africa and Latin America, spoke of growing ties with Arab states despite deteriorating ties with the Palestinians; Bahrain defends Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem; Netanyahu: The Arab states are looking for links with the strong.
Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed Israel’s normalization with Arab states amidst deteriorating relations with the Palestinians.
Speaking at an event for Israeli diplomats to Africa, Asia and South America, Netanyahu spoke of Israel’s growing ties with Arab states and regional needs for Israel’s resources and innovation. He stated on Sunday evening, “A great change has been created here. The Arab world needs technology and innovation. It needs water, electricity, medical care and high tech…”
He highlighted normalization with Arab states despite the consistent lack of progress with the Palestinians, stating “What is happening at the moment is that we are in a process of normalization with the Arab world without progress in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.” The prime minister spoke of the outdated expectation that relations with the Arab world would only follow peace with the Palestinians, referring to the Oslo Accords and intifada that followed. He added “The Arab states are looking for links with the strong. Cultivating strengths gives us diplomatic power. It is more likely that it will work in reverse. Links with the Arab world will bring normalization and create the conditions for developing links with the Palestinians.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority head negotiator, Saeb Erekat, reported details of a conversation with President Trump’s special advisor to the Middle East Jared Kushner ahead of President Trump’s historic announcement on the US Embassy relocation last December at the White House. Erekat reported that Kushner told him the Trump Administration would “conduct our policies according to our interests” in the region, informing him that the United States would not sign the 1995 waiver from Congress to suspend the US Embassy move to Jerusalem. Erekat reported that he protested the embassy move and Trump Administration’s methods, telling Kushner that the US would lose its place in the peace process.
According to Erekat, Kushner responded “Do not threaten me,” and stated to Erekat “You do not know the changes that are happening around you in the Arab world.” Erekat reported that he told Kushner “Do you think Arab countries will open embassies in Tel Aviv and accept Jerusalem, with the Al-Aqsa mosque [Dome of the Rock], as Israel’s capital? To them Jerusalem is a red line- all of them! Saudis, Qataris, Egyptians, Jordanians, Bahrainis. So what are you talking about?” Kushner reportedly responded that “this is our business and our policies”.
Israel’s stance and ties in the region, Africa and Asia continue to develop as Netanyahu continues his efforts to increase Israel’s ties. Last month, reports surfaced that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a delegation of Saudi officials from its intelligence, political and economic branches held meetings with Egyptian officials and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi centered on efforts to create ties between Arab states with Israel and President Trump’s peace plan. The officials also discussed the Palestinian issue, bilateral ties and security.
Prior to this, Chad’s President made history as the first Chadian official to visit Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu announcing his intentions to expand Israeli ties to the center of Africa. He stated in late November alongside President Deby “I hope to come to the center of Africa. And I wish to bring with me Israeli entrepreneurs, Israeli experts, Israeli companies, everything that can improve the life of the peoples of Africa, which is something we believe in. Israel is coming back to Africa, Africa is coming back to Israel.”
He spoke of the “great changes that are taking place in the Arab world in its relations with Israel,” referring to his historic visit to Oman and meeting with Sultan Qaboos. He stated at the time “there will be more such visits in Arab countries very soon. As a leader of an African country, an important African country, a majority of whose population is Muslim, you are coming to Israel to renew our friendship and our relationship. I think it is a testament of what is going to happen with other such countries in Africa as well, and I believe that you are paving the way for many others.”
Since his meeting in Oman, the country’s Foreign Ministry has now twice publicly called on Arab states to accept Israel as a player in the region.
The most recent support from an Arab state was just over the weekend when Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa defended Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem. He took to Twitter stating “Australia’s stance does not impact the legitimate Palestinian demands, first among them being East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and it does not contradict the Arab Peace Initiative.”
Australia’s decision was condemned by the Arab League, several Arab states and neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia.
Be sure to watch Amir’s Middle East Update from Slovenia on Sunday. He spoke about regional developments, Macron and France, Antisemitism in Europe, the recent wave of Palestinian violence and much more.