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Israel on ‘cusp’ of Saudi ties, Netanyahu tells UN

Such a peace will go a long way to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict, says Israeli PM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City, US on September 22, 2023. Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City, US on September 22, 2023. Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations on Friday that Israel is on the “cusp” of normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia and that Palestinians should not get to “veto” the move.

Addressing the General Assembly in New York, Netanyahu said agreements in 2020 to establish formal ties with three other Arab states had already “heralded the dawn of a new age of peace.”

“But I believe that we are at the cusp of an even more dramatic breakthrough – an historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia.”

“Such a peace will go a long way to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict. It will encourage other Arab states to normalize their relations with Israel,” he said.

Netanyahu firmly rejected the insistence of Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, in his own UN speech on Thursday, that there could be no peace in the Middle East without a Palestinian state.

“We must not give the Palestinians a veto over new peace treaties with Arab states,” Netanyahu said.

“The Palestinians could greatly benefit from a broader peace. They should be part of that process. But they should not have a veto over the process.”

US President Joe Biden’s administration has been leading talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia, whose crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, recently said that the two sides were getting closer.

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Israel in 2020 established relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, its first normalizations with the Arab world in decades after making peace with neighboring Egypt and Jordan.

Netanyahu said that Israel and the Arab states were united by feeling a threat from the “tyrants of Tehran”.

He made a veiled threat of nuclear attack if Iran pursues its own atomic bomb.

“Above all – above all – Iran must face a credible nuclear threat. As long as I’m prime minister of Israel, I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said.

Israel has a widely known but undeclared nuclear programme.

Tehran denies seeking a nuclear bomb but has breached limits on uranium enrichment set in a US-brokered 2015 deal following former president Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement and reimposition sweeping sanctions.

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