Netanyahu used his UN speech to embarrass Saudi leaders and sell illusions of victory 

Motasem A. Dalloul

Middle East Monitor  /  September 27, 2023

In his address to world leaders at the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to embarrass Saudi leaders by revealing plans not yet in the public domain. He disclosed what has been going on behind closed doors regarding the normalization of ties between the apartheid state and Saudi Arabia and making peace deals with the Arab regimes across the region. This has been going on under US patronage and applauded by its allies.

Netanyahu insisted again that the claim that Israel cannot make peace deals with any Arab state before the resolution of Palestinian issue is “false” and belongs to the past. He even revealed that the Palestinians have never been consulted or even considered in any peace deal with the Arab regimes.

“I also believe that we must not give the Palestinians a veto over new peace treaties with Arab states,” he told the General Assembly. “The Palestinians could benefit greatly from a broader peace. They should be part of that process, but they should not have a veto over the process.”

Israeli leaders always make deals with Arab and Palestinian leaders through secret talks and agree to introduce them to the world in a way that does not embarrass them. They agree to terminology or conditions that suggest a kind of victory for the Palestinians, giving the regimes an opportunity to market the shameful deals to their people. In doing so, he also makes it look like Israel has the victory — it usually has — to please his electorate.

Netanyahu’s comments at the UN followed the comment by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who told Fox News that the kingdom is “getting closer” to signing a peace deal, but this even surprised the Saudis. They have been insisting that concessions for the Palestinians are essential before any deal with Israel.

Indeed, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan responded to Netanyahu by pointing out that the Kingdom insists on its preconditions related to the creation of a Palestinian state and the other conditions contained in the Saudi-proposed 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

However, on Tuesday, an Israeli journalist based in the US, Jacob Magid, reported three officials familiar with the issue of the normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel as saying that Riyadh “is readying for the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel without first securing the establishment of a Palestinian state.” He added that, “Publicly, Saudi officials continue to stress their support for the 2002 initiative, which offers Israel normalized ties with the entire Arab world once it reaches a two-state solution to its conflict with the Palestinians.”

Netanyahu, though, turned this upside down and exposed the hypocrisy of the Arab leaders who meet with Palestinians and claim that they will not make peace at the expense of their rights. He then played the numbers card. With the Palestinians being just two per cent of the population of the Arab world, he said, “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 a path of genuine peace with it.”

In other words, the Palestinians will not have any role in the normalization deals between the Arab regimes and Israel. I am sure that this has already been agreed with the Saudis and that they wanted it to be kept a secret. Hence their probable surprise and embarrassment when the Israeli prime minister blurted it out at the UN.

According to Netanyahu, Israel is “at the cusp of… a historic peace” with Saudi Arabia that “will go a long way to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict, will encourage other Arab states to normalize their relations with Israel and will enhance the prospects of peace with the Palestinians.”

Arab leaders … are puppets kept in place … to suppress the people and, ultimately, serve Israel.

He must realize, of course, that making peace with an Arab regime does not mean making peace with the people because Arab leaders do not represent their people. They are puppets kept in place by foreign powers in order to suppress the people and, ultimately, serve Israel and its interests.

Perhaps the Israeli leader needs to be reminded that the 1979 and 1994 peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan respectively; the 2020 Abraham Accords with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco; and the failed Oslo Accords of thirty years ago have not led to the end of the Palestine-Israel conflict and Israel’s brutal military occupation. Far from it; the occupation has got worse, with even more Palestinian land stolen for illegal Jewish settlements and thuggish Jewish settlers. The simple reason is that peace and justice has never been the aim of such “peace deals”; they have been intended solely to buy Israel more time to consolidate its settler-colonial occupation and its brutal grip on Palestine.

Netanyahu is playing politics here. His words pushing illusions of victory are for domestic consumption only as he tries to placate the many Israelis who have been protesting for months against his judicial reform plan which opponents believe is destroying what passes as Israeli democracy. Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states should understand this, and refuse to play the game by his rules.

Motasem A. Dalloul is Middle East Monitor’s correspondent in the Gaza Strip