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Netanyahu takes to Saudi television to push for normalisation with Israel

Incoming prime minister says Riyadh deal would bring about peace with Palestinians and change region in 'unimaginable ways'
Israeli prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset in Jerusalem on 13 December 2022 (AFP)
Israeli prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset in Jerusalem on 13 December 2022 (AFP)

Benjamin Netanyahu has taken to Saudi Arabian state television to claim that normalisation with Riyadh is key to peace between Israel and Palestine

Netanyahu, who is likely to become Israeli prime minister once again later this month, talked up a potential improvement of ties with the Gulf kingdom during an interview with Saudi broadcaster Al Arabiya on Thursday. 

He also urged US President Joe Biden to reaffirm Washington’s own relationship with Riyadh, following recent tensions over a Saudi-led cut in global oil production.

“The traditional [US] alliance with Saudi Arabia and other countries, has to be reaffirmed,” he said.

“There should not be periodic swings, or even wild swings in this relationship, because I think that the alliance between America’s allies and with America is the anchor of stability in our region.”

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In 2020, under Netanyahu’s premiership, Israel signed US-brokered normalisation deals with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan, in what became known as the Abraham Accords.

Saudi Arabia, which does not have official diplomatic relations with Israel, has insisted that it would only normalise ties upon the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. 

“I think we can have a new peace initiative that will form a quantum leap for the achievement for the resolution of both the Arab-Israeli conflict and ultimately, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” Netanyahu said on Thursday. 

“And of course, I’m referring to what could be a truly remarkable historic peace with Saudi Arabia.” 

He said that a normalisation deal, like those signed with other Arab states would “change our region in ways that are unimaginable”.

'All decisions will be made by me'

Elsewhere during the interview, the incoming prime minister reiterated his rejection of a revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

He also said that he would not reverse a US-brokered maritime border agreement between Israel and Lebanon signed by outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid, despite denouncing it in October.

“I’ll see what I can do to moderate any damage or to secure Israel’s economic and security interests,” he said, regarding the cross-border deal.

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On domestic issues, asked about extensive powers in the Occupied West Bank being given to far-right factions in his incoming coalition, Netanyahu denied handing over control. 

“All the decisions will be made by me and the defence minister, and that’s actually in the coalition agreement,” he said. 

Netanyahu’s Likud has signed coalition deals with far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party and Bezalel Smotrich’s far-right Religious Zionism party.

Likud later clarified on Thursday that its leader was referring to security powers in the Occupied West Bank, and not an agreement with Religious Zionism over the civil administration. 

Lapid criticised Netanyahu following the interview. 

“Netanyahu in English: only I determine [policy]! Netanyahu in Hebrew: sorry Smotrich, I didn’t mean it,” he wrote on Twitter. “Netanyahu is weak, a junior partner in the government.”

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