Netanyahu: In the Middle East, the strong survive and make peace

Ashkenazi, UAE counterpart launch phone link between countries

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Home Front Command, August 4, 2020 (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Home Front Command, August 4, 2020
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s doctrine of “peace for peace” and “peace from strength” brought about formal relations with the United Arab Emirates, he said Sunday.
“Under this doctrine, Israel does not have to withdraw from any territory, and the two states get the fruits of full, open peace,” Netanyahu said in a video posted online. “This peace was not achieved because Israel weakened itself by withdrawing to ’67 lines. It was achieved because Israel strengthened itself by cultivating a free-market economy, by cultivating military and technological strength and by combining the two to attain unprecedented international influence.”
Netanyahu tied Israel’s strength and willingness to stand up to Iranian aggression – even when he “stood alone against the whole world” and the Iran nuclear deal – with encouraging Arab leaders to get closer to Israel.
“In the Middle East, the strong survive, and peace is made with the strong,” he said.
Netanyahu said his doctrine is the opposite of those who believed no Arab state would make peace with Israel before the conflict with the Palestinians ended, including evacuating settlements, dividing Jerusalem and withdrawing to pre-1967 lines.
The Palestinians “held Israel and the Arab world hostage to the most extreme demands, which put Israel in existential danger... and more than a few Israelis agreed with these absurd conditions,” he said.
But now that idea is finished and replaced with “peace for peace, peace from strength,” Netanyahu said. He quoted his own 2013 speech to the UN General Assembly to show that he had long thought this would be possible.
Netanyahu explained his reasoning behind the peace deal to the public three times on Sunday, first in a video posted online, on Army Radio and on Fox News. It could be viewed as a victory lap, but also a way to shore up support on the Israeli Right, where some criticized him for suspending plans to extend sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria in exchange for diplomatic ties with the UAE.
Netanyahu reiterated that sovereignty was still on his agenda, saying he plans to hold any future negotiations based on US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which would have Israel retain 30% of the West Bank.
Netanyahu told Fox News he has been in touch with political leaders in Oman and “other countries” in the region following the announcement of the Abraham Accord between Israel and the UAE, but discretion was key to such discussions.
“We are making history, and we are changing history,” Netanyahu said. “It is good for the United States, and it is good for Israel... This is peace of the strong and I think peace of the hopeful for the future.”
Bahrain and Oman likely are the next Arab states to formalize relations with Israel, and Morocco and Sudan, whose leader met with Netanyahu in February, are also in line for normalization, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Army Radio on Sunday.
Bahrain is waiting for the agreement between Israel and the UAE to be officially signed before moving forward, KAN Radio reported.
Saudi Arabia could be one of the next countries to establish official ties with Israel, US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said on Meet the Press.
“We think there’s momentum for some additional parties to join normalized relations with Israel,” he said. “I can’t give a timeline, because these are the toughest negotiations in the world to broker peace between Israel and the Islamic world. But we’re confident other countries will get on board soon, and we’re looking forward to that.”
O’Brien pointed to the part of the deal in which Israel committed to allowing Muslims to visit al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, saying: “Muslim pilgrims coming to Jerusalem... will be a great confidence builder” for other states to follow in the UAE’s footsteps.
An Israeli delegation is expected to head to the UAE next week, though it is still unclear who will be part of it. Netanyahu wants the National Security Council to lead the delegation, but the Foreign Ministry is pushing to be in charge.
Among the first matters on the agenda are direct flights and arranging visas for Emiratis to visit Israel and Israelis to visit the Emirates.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and his counterpart in the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, had the first direct phone call between the countries after the UAE unblocked Israeli numbers on Sunday in a step toward fully normalized ties.
The foreign ministers “inaugurated a phone link between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel following the historic Peace Accord signed by the two countries Friday,” UAE spokeswoman Hend al-Otaiba tweeted.
Ashkenazi and bin Zayed agreed to meet soon and continue discussions about the details of the normalization agreement.
The longstanding secret relations between Israel and the UAE were becoming open and official on Thursday night, the White House announced, in what was called the Abraham Accord, the first diplomatic agreement between Israel and an Arab state since 1994 and the third ever. There has been a flurry of activity in the two countries since then.
In addition to unblocking Israeli phone lines, the UAE unblocked some Israeli news sites. The Jerusalem Post was not previously blocked in the UAE and remains accessible.
Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel praised the UAE for unblocking calls from Israel, saying: “Many economic opportunities are now open, and these trust-building steps are important for promoting the states’ interests. Salam Aleikum.”
Tamar Beeri contributed to this report.