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Netanyahu says ‘many, many more’ Arab states to normalize ties with Israel soon

Hosting US envoy to UN Kelly Craft, PM says ‘a lot more’ deals to come, ‘perhaps a lot sooner than people expect’

US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft (L) meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan. (Haim Zach/GPO)
US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft (L) meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Two days after Israel and Morocco signed their first deals in the process of establishing full diplomatic relations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that “many, many more countries” would be signing normalization agreements with the Jewish state “a lot sooner than people expect.”

Meeting with US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft as she visited Israel, Netanyahu thanked the Trump administration for consistently “defending the truth and defending the State of Israel” at the United Nations.

“President Trump and his team have done wonders to dispel so many of the myths and slanders against the Jewish people and the Jewish state and we are eternally grateful for that,” he said.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, accompanying Craft on her trip, also commended the US diplomat, saying: “You were instrumental in triggering the snapback mechanism against Iran to ensure that critical sanctions remain in place. You truly understand that a nuclear Iran is an existential threat, not only to Israel but to the entire world.”

United States ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, February 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Describing a shift in international geopolitics, Netanyahu said “there are great opportunities” for Israel at the international body.

“You can see the Arab countries, some have already come forward, others are coming forward… I think we should continue that policy and we’re going to see many, many more countries, a lot more than people expect and perhaps a lot sooner than people expect,” he said.

Israel signed normalization agreements with the UAE and Bahrain at the White House in September. Sudan, an Arab-majority state, agreed to a deal in October and Morocco announced a resumption of ties earlier this month, hosting a US-Israeli delegation Tuesday to sign agreements.

All four deals were brokered by the Trump administration, with the UAE, Sudan and Morocco receiving significant rewards from the US for opening ties with Israel.

US President Donald Trump talks on the phone with the leaders of Sudan and Israel, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, applaud in the Oval Office, October 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

US President-elect Joe Biden has welcomed the agreements, but some Democrats have criticized their transactional nature: The UAE is getting stealth fighter jets; Morocco is getting recognition of its occupation of Western Sahara; and Sudan is being removed from the US list of states that back terrorists.

It’s not clear whether Biden will abide by these agreements, or potential future agreements signed in Trump’s remaining time in office, though analysts have doubted he will be quick to walk them back.

A senior Trump administration official said Tuesday that the White House had offered Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, up to $2 billion in US development aid if it recognizes Israel.

Likud’s Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis said Wednesday that two countries were considered favorites to soon reach a rapprochement with Israel, but refused to name them.

From left to right: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan are seen on the Blue Room Balcony after signing the Abraham Accords during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, September 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia has remained noncommittal, reiterating its support for the Arab Peace Initiative, a Saudi-backed proposal from 2002 that promises Israel full diplomatic ties with the entire Muslim world in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines.

Israel’s agreements with the UAE and Bahrain come despite a deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. However, the Israel-UAE normalization process required Israel to indefinitely suspend its plans to annex some 30 percent of the West Bank.

Trump said after the Israel-UAE-Bahrain signing ceremony that he expected “seven or eight or nine” more countries to normalize ties with Israel, including Saudi Arabia.

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