Netanyahu: Israeli-Arab ties advance, but full peace unattainable now

Arab foregin ministers agreed that Israel had a right “to defend itself against Iranian aggression,” and held that it poses an existential threat, even without nuclear weapons, he said.

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February 14, 2019 18:53
2 minute read.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as he meets with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as he meets with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/KACPER PEMPEL)

 
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Israel can advance normalized ties with the Arab world without resolving the Israeli-Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but won’t be able to fully make peace with those countries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

He spoke with Israeli reporters on the sidelines of the US-led Warsaw summit, that gathered 60 countries, including from the Arab world, to talk about challenges in the Middle East region, with a focus on Iran.

Netanyahu said the meeting was a historic breakthrough with regard to Israeli-Arab ties and that the taboo against Israeli meeting with Arab leaders had been broken.

“I didn’t say we could make peace” without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “but we can advance normalization,” Netanyahu said.

Places of advancement could include commerce, including direct flight and a change in public opinion in the Arab world toward Israel.

The fear Arab states with regard to Iran, has helped fueled a new horizon for Israel in the Arab world, Netanyahu said.

Four out of the five Arab foreign ministers who spoke behind closed doors at the conference spoke about Iran and “said exactly what I have said,” Netanyahu explained.

They agreed that Israel had a right “to defend itself against Iranian aggression,” and held, as Israel does, that it poses an existential threat, even without nuclear weapons, he said.

The public nature of the event made it very significant with respect to the advancement of normalized ties with the Arab world.

“It was not a large room. They sat and they did not get up,” said Netanyahu in talking about Wednesday night’s dinner.

“The atmosphere toward Israel has changed,” he said.

True, the Israeli-Palestinian issue was raised, but Iran was on the top of the priority list for the Arab countries that gathered there, he said.

Netanyahu said that the move toward the legitimization of ties with Israel came for the recognition of the depth of the Iranian threat.

“They are sitting there. They know what they are doing. They know what the intention is,” he said.

He added that the Arab foreign ministers that were present wanted another meeting on Iran.

While in Poland, he said, in addition to his conversations with Pence and Pompeo, he had also met with the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, Brazil, Oman and Poland.

In his conversations with the Russians, he said, he has made it clear that Israel is determined not to allow Iran to establish itself militarily in Syria.

Behind closed doors, he said, Kushner did not divulge details of the Trump peace plan. Kushner reiterated that it would not be published prior to the April 9 election and  said that it would not be based on the 2002 Saudi Initiative.

Netanyahu spoke with journalists as he sat in the Museum of Jewish History in Poland, stating very clearly that Poles had helped the Germans kill Jews during the Holocaust.

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