Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expects more Arab countries to normalize their ties with Israel after last week’s agreement with the United Arab Emirates, and that the process will eventually also drive peace with the Palestinians.
In a video statement posted to his Facebook page Sunday, Netanyahu heralded what he described as a new doctrine of a strong Israel that would seek peace with Arab nations rather than conditioning ties on first ending the conflict with the Palestinians by withdrawing from territory.
“This historic change will also advance peace with the Arab world and, in the end, peace, true peace, monitored, secure, with the Palestinians as well,” Netanyahu said.
The agreement reached with the UAE, the first peace deal with an Arab state for 26 years, is unlike those with Egypt and Jordan, the other two Arab states to have formal ties with Israel, he said.
“It is different from those that preceded it in that it is based on two principles ‘Peace for peace,’ and ‘peace through strength’,” Netanyahu said. “Under this doctrine, Israel is not required to withdraw from any territory and together the two countries openly reap the fruits of a full peace: Investments, trade, tourism, health, agriculture, environmental protection and in many other fields, including defense of course,” he said.
“This peace was not achieved because Israel weakened itself by withdrawing to the 1967 lines,” he said. “It was achieved because Israel strengthened itself by cultivating a free economy, and military and technological strength, and by combining these two strengths to achieve unprecedented international influence.”
The new doctrine, he said, is “in complete contradiction to the perception, until a few days ago, that no Arab country will agree to make formal and open peace with Israel before an end is achieved for the conflict with the Palestinians.”
“In effect, this mistaken concept gave the Palestinians a veto over achieving peace between Israel and Arab countries,” he said.
“It is precisely the expansion of reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world that is likely to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace,” Netanyahu said. “I see additional countries joining the circle of peace with us.”
He said he has been advancing that policy for some time and it “took years to trickle down.”
Israel, Netanyahu said, has also achieved “an unprecedented international influence” by steadfastly opposing Iranian aggression in the region and its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.
“The fact that we stood alone, and sometimes I needed to stand alone against Iran against the whole world and against the dangerous nuclear agreement with it [Iran] — that made a great impression on the Arab leaders in the area,” Netanyahu said referring to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
The prime minister noted that the provision for Israeli annexation of some areas of the West Bank was included in January’s US peace plan for ending the conflict with the Palestinians, was there because he wanted it included, and that the plan has not changed.
“I remind you that in the current agreement, not only has Israel not withdrawn from so much as one square meter; rather, the Trump plan includes, at my request, the application of Israeli sovereignty over extensive territories in Judea and Samaria.
“It was I who insisted on including sovereignty in the plan, and this plan has not changed. President Trump is committed to it and I am committed to negotiate based on it,” he said.
During a later interview with Army Radio, Netanyahu denied that he was forced to reject annexation in exchange for normalization.
“It’s not as if someone gave me a choice and told me to pick either sovereignty or normalization,” he said. “Just as nobody believed I would bring a peace agreement — I will also bring the sovereignty [bid].”
Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced Thursday that they are establishing full diplomatic relations in the US-brokered accord, which also required Israel to “suspend” its contentious plan to annex West Bank land sought by the Palestinians for a future state. Israel had planned to unilaterally move ahead with the measures on the basis of the US peace plan.
The historic deal delivered a key foreign policy victory to US President Donald Trump as he seeks reelection and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians. Trump said a formal signing ceremony was expected in about three weeks.
The agreement makes the UAE the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full, active diplomatic ties with Israel. Thursday’s joint statement said deals between Israel and the UAE were expected in the coming weeks in such areas as tourism, direct flights, and embassies.
Late Saturday, the Emirates’ state-run WAM news agency announced that a UAE company had signed an agreement with an Israeli company for research and study of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Sunday, the UAE unblocked Israeli phone lines and websites, including The Times of Israel, and the two countries’ foreign ministers spoke by phone and agreed to meet soon.
Agencies contributed to this report.