Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said he is optimistic that Arabs and Israelis can reach a peace deal in 2017.
Speaking four days after US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a White House press conference about the possibilities of a regional peace agreement, Adel al-Jubeir told delegates at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday that the contours of an Israeli-Palestinian accord were clear, and that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states would work to bring it to fruition.
“I believe progress can be made in the Arab-Israel conflict, if there is a will to do so,” he said. “We know what the settlement looks like, if there is just the political will to do so. And my country stands ready with other Arab countries to work to see how we can promote that.”
He said the new US administration made him optimistic that this and other regional challenges could be resolved.
“We see a president who’s pragmatic and practical, a businessman, problem-solver, a man who’s not an ideologue,” Jubeir said of Trump. “He wants America to play a role in the world. Our view is that when America disengages, it creates tremendous danger in the worlds, because it leaves vacuums, and into those vacuums evil forces flow.”
Saudi Arabia shared common goals with Trump, he added. “He believes in destroying Islamic State; so do we,” Jubeir said. “He believes in containing Iran; so do we. He believes in working with traditional allies; so do we.”
In his talk, one of a series of speeches Sunday under the heading “Old Problems, New Middle East?” Jubeir reminded European colleagues who are nervous about the Trump administration that when Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 there was also a lot of concern in Europe, yet Reagan brought stability to the region and ended the Cold War.
The biggest challenge facing the region is Iran, he said, echoing comments made earlier in the day by Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. “Iran remains the single main sponsor of terrorism in the world,” the Saudi minister said. “It’s determined to upend the order in Middle East … [and] until and unless Iran changes its behavior it would be very difficult to deal with a country like this.”
Jubeir said that “Iran is the only one in the Middle East that hasn’t been targeted by Islamic State and al-Qaeda,” implying that there was a relationship between the regime and the terror groups.
The foreign minister also claimed that the the Iranians took advantage of the good will of the P5+1 nations negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal. They “stepped up the tempo of their mischief” while the negotiations were taking place, he said, and continue to do so today.
“I believe that Iran knows where the red lines are if the red lines are drawn clearly, and I believe that the world has to make it clear to the Iranians that there is certain behavior that will not be tolerated, and that there will be consequences,” Jubeir told the conference. “And those consequences have to be in tune with the financial side.”
Jubeir said that extending a hand to Iran would not work. “For 35 years, we have offered Iran our friendship and support,” he said, “and got nothing but death and destruction.”
A report earlier on Sunday claimed that Netanyahu rejected a regional peace plan for the renewal of negotiations toward a two-state solution and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state a year ago.
The proposal was the result of months of negotiations led by then-US secretary of state John Kerry and culminated in a secret meeting on February 21, 2016, between Netanyahu, Kerry, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Jordan’s King Abdullah, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.