Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud walks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a reception ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 7, 2017.
(photo credit: SAUDI PRESS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Saudi Arabia should offer the Palestinians its patronage in pushing forward the peace initiative that the US is currently working on, Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said in an interview published on Wednesday in Elaph, a London-based Arabic news website owned by a Saudi businessman.
“The Americans are putting together an initiative, but are not telling us what it includes; they say they will present it as an option, but not impose it. I think it is an opportunity,” Katz said.
“I suggest that Saudi Arabia, as the leader of the Arab world, take upon itself this initiative and go to the Palestinians and offer their patronage. They [the Palestinians] are too weak, they need someone to help them.”
“I call on [Saudi] King Salman to invite [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu for a visit, and for the crown prince to come for a visit here in Israel,” Katz said. “He should come, give patronage to and lead the peace initiative with the Palestinians and the US.”
The diplomatic process needs a jolt of creative ideas, he said.
“It it is important that we not come with the same thoughts and ideas,” he said. “Both sides need to understand that they must come with a willingness to give concessions here and there, and to be receptive. In a situation where the Saudis take the lead, I would be willing to go to negotiations.”
Katz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said the Saudis were well poised to take a leadership role because of the positive changes the kingdom is currently undergoing. Secondly, he said, Israel and Saudi Arabia agree “on everything” regarding the Iranian issue.
Protests erupt after Trump announces Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, December 7, 2017
He warned that Israel would send Lebanon “back to the stone age” if Iran builds a military industrial complex in the country able to manufacture precision rockets to be used against Israel, adding that Iran and Hezbollah were endangering Lebanon’s stability.
“This is a redline for us, whatever the price,” Katz said. “The more precise the Hezbollah missiles, the bigger the blow Lebanon will absorb.”
If there is another confrontation with Hezbollah, Israel will act not to return Hezbollah to the caves of south Lebanon, as one Saudi
Arabian minister recently put it, but rather to the “stone age,” he said.
Regarding US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Katz said that Trump did no more than recognize reality, not change it.
He pointed out that the US president said that the borders of Jerusalem, as well as the status of the holy places, will be discussed in permanent-status negotiations.
Katz noted that even as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continuously bashes Israel, “this does not prevent him from transferring through the Haifa Port 25% of his trade with Gulf countries.”
Every day dozens of trucks laden with goods from Turkey are unloaded at Haifa Port, and driven overland to the Allenby Bridge, and from there to the Gulf countries.
Likewise, he said, Turkish Airways is the busiest foreign carrier at Ben-Gurion Airport
Katz noted that Haifa Port also serves Jordan, and that 20% of the Hashemite Kingdom’s exports go through the port.
Jordan’s security and stability are important for Israel, but Jerusalem does not “like” King Abdullah’s verbal attacks on Israel, Katz said.
Nevertheless, “we are aware of the difficulties that Jordan has to deal with,” and view “positively” the king’s efforts to deal with those challenges, he said.