Israeli minister: Trump opening new peace path with Israel-Sunni efforts

Intelligence Minister Israel Katz says new US administration working to boost ties between Israel and moderate Sunni countries in the region.

February 26, 2017 12:04
2 minute read.
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US President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Trump administration is working to strengthen ties between Israel and moderate Sunni states in the region for the purpose of advancing the prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, according to Intelligence Minister Israel Katz.

In an interview with The Washington Post published on Sunday, he acknowledged that Israel has relations with certain unnamed Sunni countries that have no official peace deal or diplomatic ties with Jerusalem.

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Katz indicated that due to the relative weakness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and recent changes within the Hamas leadership, a direct approach has become increasingly difficult.

Therefore, he has been pushing his vision for achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians using a multi-layered regional approach, with coordination between moderate Arab states along with moderate Palestinians.

Katz explained that one aspect of bolstering the Israeli-Sunni state alliance consists of uniting in the fight against extremist groups wreaking havoc in the region, such as Islamic State and al-Qaida, along with the Shi’ite axis of Iran and Hezbollah.

The US administration’s shift on the Middle East conflict has provided Israel with mechanisms and backing in order to strengthen security cooperation with Sunni states, Katz told the newspaper.

“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu went to America after many discussions here in which we spoke about the idea for regional peace, based on security and economic considerations in the region,” he said of the premier’s recent visit to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu says Arab countries increasingly see Israel as an ally (credit: PMO)

The minister mentioned that along with security coordination, regional economics can serve as a path for forging diplomatic and political ties with the Arab world.

In the case that intelligence sharing and a level of strategic regional cooperation are attained, Katz said he envisions a plan to physically close the gap between Israel and the Arab world with a train line that runs from Beit She’an to Jordan, which could branch out from there to various destinations in the region.

Katz stated that he has already garnered support from Netanyahu for the venture and that efforts are in the works to gain backing from Gulf states, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

He further noted that despite recent questions surrounding the issue, the United States still supports a two-state solution and Netanyahu has not rejected it.

“It’s not that we are against two states, but, as one White House official pointed [out] – if you ask five people what two states would look like, you’d get eight different answers,” Katz said.

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