Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with Al Arabiya English that he plans to pursue a peace deal with Saudi Arabia, revealing that such a breakthrough could provide a pathway to solving the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs.
He also called on Saudi Arabia to become part of the Abraham Accords.
“I think we face a possibility of not merely an expansion of the peace, I think we can have a new peace initiative that will form a quantum leap for the achievement of the resolution for both the Arab-Israeli conflict and ultimately the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” Netanyahu said.
“I’m referring to what could be a truly remarkable historic peace with Saudi Arabia,” he added.
“I think peace with Saudi Arabia will serve two purposes. It will be a quantum leap for overall peace between Israel and the Arab world. It will change our region in ways that are unimaginable and I think it will facilitate ultimately Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
The Prime Minister-designate said that he “believes in that and I intend to pursue it.”
“Of course, it’s up to the leadership of Saudi Arabia if they want to partake in this effort,” he said.
Netanyahu also said that he will ask President Joe Biden to reaffirm the US commitment to its traditional allies in the Middle East.
“My time in the United States made me appreciate the important role of the United States in protecting the peace and stability of the world. I view that alliance with the United States as particularly important,” Netanyahu said.
“One of my main goals would be to speak with my friend of 40 years President Biden. And I’m going to tell him that I think there is a need for a reaffirmation of America’s commitment to its traditional allies in the Middle East," he continued.
"Israel, of course, is there. We’ve had a solid unbreakable relationship [with the US]. But I think that the traditional alliance with Saudi Arabia and other countries has to be reaffirmed," he added.
"There should not be periodic swings, or even wild swings in this relationship, because the alliance between America’s allies with America is the anchor of stability in our region, and I think it requires period reaffirmation, and I hope to speak to President Biden about it.”
During the interview, Netanyahu commented about the countries in the region that share Israel’s vision of a “new Middle East,” but added that Iran remains a major threat to stability.
“The problem with Iran and its proxies is that they have a completely different vision,” he said. “They want to stop this progress. They want to dominate the Middle East, if not conquer it outright. They openly say they want to annihilate Israel.”
He pointed out the futility of attempting to forge any agreements with Iran or its proxies, describing the maritime agreement between Israel and Lebanon, which had to be endorsed by Hezbollah, as a “ceasefire agreement between enemies” that will “hold as long as the common interest to hold [it] keeps on.”
“You may have a tactical agreement on the Lebanese maritime question but you can’t really make it. What kind of agreement would I make with Iran? The method of our decapitation? How we commit suicide? How we allow them to have a nuclear arsenal that will threaten all of us?” he said. “That’s not an agreement. So yes, I think there is an enormous difference between the solid agreements between like-minded states and the so-called agreements with Iran and its proxies that are usually violated even before they’re signed.”
Netanyahu also pointed out that the continuing protests in Iran against the regime, and the resulting human rights abuses against protesters, have caused the White House to reevaluate its goal of reentering the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA).
The protests, which began after the death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police in September, are the biggest challenge to Iran’s Islamic theocracy since the revolution in 1979 that brought them to power.
“If you look at what is happening now, since 1979, nothing like this has happened,” Netanyahu said. “Initially, people thought well, it’s like the green revolution [of 2009], but it’s not. It’s stronger.”
He described the ongoing protests as demonstrating the regime’s “weakness” and he views them as a failure on the regime’s part to meet the needs of its citizens and to implement needed human rights reforms.
“They don’t work for their people. They work for a radical ideology that is bad for Iranians, bad for Arabs, bad for Israelis, bad for Americans and everyone else in between,” Netanyahu said.
On the topic of the JCPOA, Netanyahu was optimistic that a "re-thinking" is occurring, describing the deal as a “horrible agreement.”
“I think there is a re-thinking in Washington. From the initial contacts that we have [had with the Biden administration], I think there’s a rethinking of that. And I’m glad there is,” he said.
He said that Israel remains ready to do “whatever is necessary” to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear state.
“I want to protect [Israel] against Iran’s aggression, and against a regime that openly calls for the annihilation of my country. With or without an agreement [from the US],” he said. “I won't go into the operational or technical details. But I will say that unless you’re able to have a credible military option against rogue states that are trying to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, you won’t stop them.”
When asked about his coalition, and the commitments he made to Smotrich and Ben Gvir, Netanyahu said he does not agree with Defense Minister Gantz’s claim that there could be a security collapse in Judea and Samaria as a result.
Netanyahu asserted that he in fact disagreed with the premise of the question, stating that he “didn’t hand over great powers in Judea and Samaria, not at all.”
“All the decisions will be made by me and the defense minister, and that’s actually in the coalition agreement. So there’s a lot of misinformation about that,” he said.
“My record speaks for itself. The last decade in which I led Israel was the safest decade in Israel’s history. But not only safe and secure for Israelis, also safe and secure for the Palestinians. Because there’s been the least loss of life on both sides and that’s not accidental. It’s because of a responsible policy of security that I’ve led which has actually resulted in more peace and growing of economic possibilities.”
He continued: “In the year that I left government and the outgoing government was in power, things changed immediately. We had an eruption of violence like we had not seen since 2008, a year before I returned to office. My policy is one of stability, peace, prosperity and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
“I will govern and I will lead and I will navigate this government," he added. "The other parties are joining me, I’m not joining them. Remember, Likud is one half of this coalition. They’re joining us, they will follow my policy.”