PM to Al-Arabiya: Egypt likely to keep peace treaty

Netanyahu also tells Arab network some settlements will be left outside Israel's borders, says peace will come with recognition of Jewish state.

By
July 21, 2011 23:10
3 minute read.
Binyamin Netanyahu

Binyamin Netanyahu 521. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The next Egyptian government will likely keep the peace treaty with Israel because to do otherwise would be too costly, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in an interview aired Thursday on Al-Arabiya.

“Will the next government in Egypt be committed to peace? I think so, because I think the stakes are too high to go back to what we had. I remember what we had,” Netanyahu said, adding that he found it difficult to believe the Egyptian government would “want to turn back the clock, go back to the terrible days of wars that we had, when the benefits of peace are evident.”

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Not only are people not dying because of the Egyptian-Israeli accord, but Egypt is also benefiting from trade, American support and tourism as a result of the peace.

“I think it’s in the vested interest of Egypt to continue,” he said.

The 30-minute interview with the Saudi-owned, Dubai-based Al-Arabiya was the first interview with a pan-Arab network Netanyahu has given since coming into office in 2009.

Netanyahu said the current transition government is committed to the peace.

“They’ve said so openly. And in practice this is also taking place,” he said.

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Asked whether he was not worried about the future of the peace treaty or the flow of natural gas from Egypt to Israel, Netanyahu – in a reference to Iran – said, “Look, I worry, because there are people who don’t want what I just said. And they may subvert the democratic process and take over.”

Netanyahu said he respected deposed president Hosni Mubarak, and that upholding peace between Israel and Egypt for over 30 years was a “great achievement.”

Regarding Lebanon, Netanyahu said that had the Cedar Revolution of 2005 run its course, “we would have had a peace treaty with Lebanon. If the forces of moderation, the forces of progress would have been successful in the Cedar Revolution, there would have been a peace treaty between Israel and Lebanon.”

On the Palestinian issue, Netanyahu said he has made clear that “some settlements will be left outside the final borders of Israel.”

He also said the built-up areas of the settlements “take up two percent of the West bank. It doesn’t gobble up the West Bank, it doesn’t preempt the map of a Palestinian state. It’s a side issue that has been turned into a great issue that stops us from getting into the issue.”

Netanyahu dismissed the claim he was unable to reach an agreement with the Palestinians because of political pressure, saying, “The coalition doesn’t prevent me from negotiating and I’ll surprise you: I think that most Israelis, including members – voters – of this coalition government will support a peace agreement that I will bring. The tragedy of what is happening now is that the Palestinians are again missing an opportunity, again missing an opportunity to negotiate this peace.”

Netanyahu said that “exactly contrary to the received wisdom,” he was both able and willing to deliver a peace agreement.

“You can’t do it if you’re a marginal party in Israel or if you don’t represent the large consensus,” he said. “[Menachem] Begin did it once and I can do it again, but I need a partner.”

Also on Thursday, Netanyahu spoke at a memorial ceremony for Theodor Herzl at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, saying that although peace between Israel and its neighboring countries seems impossible to reach, peace will ultimately come along with recognition of a Jewish state.

“Even though peace seems distant and unattainable and there will be many more obstacles before it is reached, peace between us and our neighbors will come,” Netanyahu said.

“We will know peace has been reached when all our neighbors recognize the right of a Jewish state to exist, just as Benjamin Ze’ev [Theodore] Herzl predicted.”

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