Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Saudi Arabia about the dangers of strengthening its ties with Iran and touted the benefits of Israeli normalization with the kingdom in an interview with CNBC.
“Those who partner with Iran, partner with misery. Look at Lebanon, look at Yemen, look at Syria, look at Iraq. These are countries that are almost at failed state status,” Netanyahu said.
He spoke as Iran has restored its diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and invited the country’s king to visit Tehran.
Israel has wanted to normalize ties with Saudi Arabia
Israel long sought to normalize its ties with Saudi Arabia, with Netanyahu and officials speaking of that as a step that could happen in the near future.
US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said earlier this week he believed that such a deal was possible in the next year, warning in fact that if this did not happen by the first quarter of 2024, such an opportunity could close.
Netanyahu underscored his desire for a Saudi peace deal in his CNBC interview, stating “We’d like very much to have peace with Saudi Arabia. It would be another huge quantum leap for peace.”
Saudi Arabia’s leadership “has no illusions about who are their adversaries and who are their friends in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said.
“They understand that Israel is the indispensable partner for the Arab world in achieving security, prosperity and peace,” Netanyahu explained.
Peace with Saudi Arabia “would end the conflict with the Arab States because Saudi Arabia is so important,” he said.
There are clear advantages to peace with Israel, he said, pointing to the US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020, in which Israel agreed to normalize ties with four Arab states: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
“Those who partner with Israel boost their societies” and “boost our common relations to great heights,” he said.
“We have billions in investment and trade with the Gulf state,” and that reflects only the initial start of economic relations, Netanyahu said, adding that “we haven’t even scratched the surface.”
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Wednesday held out the prospect of a future Saudi Arabia visit and said at least one more Arab country would normalize ties with Israel this year.
“This [visit to Saudi Arabia] is on the table, but there is no date yet,” he said, speaking to Army Radio during a state visit to Azerbaijan.
“The enemy of Saudi Arabia is certainly not Israel. Its enemy is Iran,” Cohen said.
When asked about the restoration of ties between Riyadh and Tehran, Cohen said that such a development could bode well for Israel.
“It is precisely this thing that can lead to a balancing act of [Saudi Arabia] moving closer to Israel,” he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jeddah where the two discussed the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinian WAFA news agency reported.
Reuters contributed to this report.