Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jerusalem Sunday afternoon, kicking off Blinken’s tour of the Middle East and North Africa.
At a joint press conference held after their meeting, Bennett touted a ‘changing Middle East’, with warming ties between Israel and a number of Arab states, noting that Israel is hosting the Negev Summit, bringing together representatives of four Arab countries in Sde Boker in southern Israel.
“We’re hosting the Negev Summit here in Israel, where the foreign ministers of Egypt, the UAE, Morocco, and Bahrain will gather together with Israel and the United States in Sde Boker in southern Israel for this momentous occasion.”
“The Middle East is changing, and it is changing for the better. We’re cultivating old ties and building new bridges. We are rejuvenating old peace, and recharging it with a new energy of the Abraham Accords.”
“We are working together to overcome the old forces of darkness and build a new future that is better, brighter, and promising.”
“In a turbulent world, Israel is a force for peace, prosperity, stability, and for doing good. That is what we are about – to do good. Unfortunately, there are other forces in the region that are still violent and destructive.”
Bennett said Israel and a number of moderate Arab states are ‘concerned’ about the Biden administration’s plans to remove Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from the terrorist blacklist.
“We are concerned about the intention to delist the IRGC – the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Their proxies, the Houthis, this weekend just carried out a horrific attack on Saudi Arabia. I hope the United States will hear the concerned voices from the region – Israel’s and others – on this very important issue.”
The Israeli prime minister also highlighted his government’s efforts to improve conditions in the Palestinian Authority and in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Notably, Bennett, once the director of the Yesha Council – an umbrella organization for Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria – referred to the territories as the “West Bank”, a term traditionally anathema to the Israeli Right and the settlement movement in particular.
“Our government is working very hard to improve the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza. Just earlier today, my cabinet approved 20,000 workers from Gaza to be able to work in Israel. We are going to be investing almost 40 million shekels in improving the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip to allow smooth and dignified movement between Gaza and Israel.”
“We can’t solve everything, we can improve the lives of people on the ground.”
“As for the war in the Ukraine: Israel stands firm with the people of Ukraine, and is going to continue our effort to help reduce the suffering and end the bloodshed. We’ve already sent our top medical teams to set up the most advanced field hospital on the western side [of Ukraine].”