Netanyahu to UAE TV on Annexation: Top Priority Now is Expanding Circle of Peace

Netanyahu to UAE TV on Annexation: Top Priority Now is Expanding Circle of Peace

In first interview with Emirati network, PM hails normalization as game changer in Mideast peacemaking, predicts others, including Palestinians, will follow.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, giving an interview to the Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia, August 17, 2020. (Screen capture: Sky News Arabia)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, giving an interview to the Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia, August 17, 2020. (Screen capture: Sky News Arabia)

Four days after the normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates was announced, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave an unprecedented interview on Monday to the Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia, in which expressed confidence that other Arab states would follow suit.

Regarding his plan to annex parts of the West Bank, he said that the Trump Administration had asked him to suspend it temporarily, and that the top priority at present was expanding the circle of peace.

Netanyahu was speaking English but the conversation was dubbed into Arabic, and no English transcript was made available.

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner told reporters Monday that the US would not consent to annexation “for some time.” “Israel has agreed with us that they will not move forward without our consent,” Kushner said. “We do not plan to give our consent for some time, as right now the focus has to be on getting this new peace agreement implemented.”

Praising the UAE for taking the step, Netanyahu said he believes that other Arab countries will follow suit and also sign deals with Israel.

Netanyahu said both countries would benefit “greatly from the deal,” adding that Israel plans to import from “free zones” in the United Arab Emirates — areas in which foreign companies can operate under light regulation and where foreign investors are allowed to take full ownership in companies.

Hailing the move as a game changer in Middle East peace-making, Netanyahu predicted that the accord will eventually lead to peace with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Transportation Minister Miri Regev during a visit to Ben Gurion Airport, August 17, 2020. (Facebook)

Earlier Monday, the prime minister said that Israel was working to establish direct flights between Tel Aviv and the United Arab Emirates, flying over Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu commented on some of the expected benefits of the normalization of ties with the UAE, as he visited Ben Gurion Airport with Transportation Minister Miri Regev.

“We are now working on enabling direct flights over Saudi Arabia between Tel Aviv and Dubai,” Netanyahu said, noting that he believed an agreement would be reached.

“This will change Israeli aviation and the Israeli economy with a huge amount of tourism for both sides and investments,” he added.

Netanyahu also appeared to refer to the UAE as a “democracy,” although the country is one of the least free states in the world, according to Freedom House.

“This agreement will bring together the UAE and Israel. Both countries are democracies, they are both advanced,” Netanyahu said.

Israel does not have formal ties with Saudi Arabia and Israeli planes are generally not permitted to fly over its territory, although the two countries reportedly have behind-the-scenes cooperation on some matters, in particular, security.

“The Emirates are very interested in massive investments in technology in Israel,” Netanyahu continued and said that cheap products manufactured in Emirati free trade zones will become available for Israeli consumers.

“It is a boost to the Israeli economy that will benefit every citizen,” he said.

Oman’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Yousef bin Alawi bin Abdullah speaks during the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2017, UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Also on Monday, Omani Foreign Minister Yousef bin Alawi spoke on the phone with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi today in the first conversation of its kind between the two top diplomats as analysts predict Muscat could be among the first countries to follow Abu Dhabi’s path in normalizing ties with Jerusalem.

Oman on Friday said it backed the normalization of ties between neighboring UAE and Israel, expressing hope that the move would help achieve lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Earlier Monday, President Reuven Rivlin extended an invitation to the de facto leader of the UAE to visit Israel, after the two countries agreed on normalization.

Rivlin’s invitation to the crown prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was sent in Arabic and came days after the announcement of a landmark deal between Israel and the UAE on forging diplomatic ties.

The invitation was to visit “Israel and Jerusalem and be our honored guest.” Whereas Israel considers the entire city its capital, the Arab world sees East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state.

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