BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Israel could receive something from moderate Arab states in return for cooperating in anti-terror efforts, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.
“Today there’s almost no government, in the entire world, that is not willing to cooperate with us on the matter of [fighting] terrorism; it almost doesn’t exist,” he told reporters at a briefing. “Even if their public statements may say the opposite, in fact it doesn’t really exist. It almost doesn’t exist. That’s a major change, and it shows appreciation for our capabilities.”
Netanyahu hinted that Israel was in a position to receive some sort of benefit in return for working on countering terror, but did not go into details or even confirm if Israel was getting anything.
“Generally, in order to receive, you need to give. This puts Israel in a very strong position in the international arena. And I don’t just say that. We have capabilities that no other country in the world has. No one has better capabilities than we have. And [fighting] terror — that interests everyone.”
Netanyahu has for years contended that Israel’s relations with the Arab world are dramatically improving and now include clandestine security and intelligence cooperation.
Moderate Arab leaders realize that Iran — and not Israel — is the real danger to peace and stability in the region, he routinely postulates, despite the fact that Arab states other than Egypt and Jordan deny any ties with Israel.
The prime minister’s statement Tuesday appears to mark the first time that he has addressed Israel getting anything in return for the assistance it provides to the Arab world.
On Monday, Netanyahu, on a state visit to Latin America, said Israel “is helping all the countries that fight” against terrorism. “Indeed, many have joined this war, and there have been some achievements.”
Last week, Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, spoke of a “breakthrough” in Israel’s relations with the Arab bloc.
“What is actually happening with them has not happened in our history even when we signed the peace agreements,” he said an a Jewish New Year toast at the Foreign Ministry.
“There is cooperation in various ways, on various levels, but is not yet out in the open. But what is not yet out in the open is much greater than in any other period in Israeli history. This is a major change. The entire world is changing.”
Israel and the Arab world have been engaging for decades in various, mostly clandestine ways. In the 1990s, in the wake of the Oslo Accords, trade and political ties grew stronger. In 1996, then-acting prime minister Shimon Peres visited Oman and Qatar to officially open “Israel Trade Representation Offices” in both countries.
Overt ties with Oman didn’t last even for half a decade. In October 2000, when the Second Intifada began, Omani rulers felt the public opinion had turned against Israel, and suspended relations and closed the mission.
Qatar shuttered the Israeli mission in 2009 because of Operation Cast Lead, a military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.