Middle East Monitor / February 1, 2023
Comments come amid heightened tensions, as Israeli violence against Palestinians prompts rise in armed resistance.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned not to get “hung up” on peace negotiations with the Palestinians at a time of escalating tensions in the region.
Netanyahu said the Palestinians had maintained an “effective veto on Israel’s expansion of the ‘circle of peace’,” in a CNN interview aired on Wednesday.
“I went around them (the Palestinians). I went directly to the Arab states and forged with a new concept of peace… I forged four historic peace agreements, the Abraham Accords, which is twice the number of peace agreements that all my predecessors in 70 years got combined,” he said.
In 2020, under Netanyahu’s premiership, Israel signed US-brokered normalization deals with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan, in what became known as the Abraham Accords.
The deals broke with decades of precedence in the Arab world that Israel would not be officially recognized until its conflict with the Palestinians was resolved.
Unlike Israel’s establishment of ties with Jordan and Egypt, the Abraham Accords are unique in that the countries have publicly embraced relations. Israeli tourists have flocked to the Emirates and Morocco. And in May, Israel and the UAE signed a historic free trade deal.
Countries that signed the Abraham Accords, however, do not share a land border with Israel. The UAE and Bahrain were not established as independent states until about four years after the 1967 War between Israel and its Arab neighbours.
Since his return to office, Netanyahu has pledged to expand the Abraham Accords. In an interview on Saudi Arabia’s state television, he said normalization with Riyadh would be key to peace between Israel and Palestine.
Netanyahu reiterated his position on Wednesday, stating: “When effectively the Arab-Israeli conflict (comes) to an end, I think we’ll circle back to the Palestinians and get a workable peace with the Palestinians.”
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said in January that the kingdom will not normalize relations with Israel until Palestinians are granted statehood.
Netanyahu’s comments come at a time of rising tensions. Israeli violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank has been getting more deadly and frequent, prompting a rise in armed Palestinian resistance.
Thirty-five Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of January.
The situation has deteriorated since an Israeli raid on a Jenin refugee camp last month killed nine Palestinians. The next day, a Palestinian killed seven Israelis in a Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.
Last year, 220 Palestinians died in Israeli attacks across the occupied territories. More Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem last year than in any single calendar year since the Second Intifada.
Meanwhile, the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians also hit its highest level since 2008, with at least 29 people, including one child, killed.
Netanyahu also sidestepped questions about the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state along the borders prior to 1967 – the year Israel occupied the Palestinian Territories of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, following the Six-Day War.
“I’m certainly willing to have them (the Palestinians) have all the powers that they need to govern themselves. But none of the powers that could threaten [us] and this means that Israel should have the overriding security responsibility,” he said.
Analysts warn that prospects for a two-state solution continue to shrink as a result of illegal Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank, with nearly 700,000 Jewish settlers now living in illegal Jewish settlements in the land earmarked for a future Palestinian state.
In response to last week’s synagogue shooting, Netanyahu vowed to “strengthen” settlements and arm thousands of Israelis.