PM begins speech by recalling previous UNGA address when he predicted Abraham Accords

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UN General Assembly, September 22, 2023 (UN Screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UN General Assembly, September 22, 2023 (UN Screenshot)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens his speech at the United Nations by talking about the Iranian threat driving Arab states and Israel closer together.

He says that five years ago during his last address, his optimism about the chances of peace with more Arab states was dismissed as naïve. He was told then, he says, that first Israel must make peace with the Palestinians.

Israel’s delegation watches as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 22, 2023. (UN Screenshot)

He recalls that he spoke about “the common threat of Iran” having “brought Israel and many Arab states closer than ever before,” and that he predicted the possibility of widening peace.

“I made the case that Israel and Arab states shared many common interests” and that this could facilitate a breakthrough.”

But his optimism was dismissed as wishful thinking, even though those with “good intentions” had tried and failed to achieve wider peace because of “one false idea” — that peace with the Palestinians must be first.

“I’ve long sought to make peace with the Palestinians,” he says, and stresses he believes in peace with the Palestinians, but they “must not have a veto” over peace with Arab states. Netanyahu argues that making peace with more Arab countries will push the Palestinians to make peace with Israel.

The Palestinians long hoped that the Arab world, “being in a warlike state with Israel,” would eventually “choke” Israel.

“When the Palestinians see that most of the Arab world has reconciled itself to the Jewish state, they too will be more likely to abandon the fantasy of destroying Israel and finally embrace the path of genuine peace with it,” says Netanyahu.

But his approach was rejected, and no new peace treaties forget for a quarter century — until 2020, when his approach, “working with the United States, Israel forged four peace treaties, in four months, with four Arab countries.”

“The Abraham Accords were a pivot of history,” he says, “and today we all see the blessings of these accords” in innumerable areas of cooperation.

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