Israel is in secret discussions with Arab and Muslim leaders about normalizing their relations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued on Sunday on the eve of the “first direct commercial flight” between the Hebrew state and the United Arab Emirates, after their recent agreement.
Since the announcement on August 13 by Washington of the normalization of their relations, Israel and the Emirates, which have maintained informal ties for years, have increased telephone exchanges between ministers and signed the first commercial contracts. Abu Dhabi even repealed a 1972 law on Saturday that enshrined the boycott of the Hebrew state.
For his part, US Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo, as part of a tour of the Middle East last week that took him to Sudan, Bahrain and Oman, tried to convince other countries to the region to follow the Emirati example.
Benjamin Netanyahu had meanwhile already spoken in recent months with leaders of Sudan, Chad and Oman.
“These are the known encounters. But there are many more unmediated meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders to normalize relations with the State of Israel, ”he said on Sunday without lifting the veil on the identity of the countries concerned by these discussions. .
“Today’s breakthroughs will be the standards of tomorrow, they will pave the way for other countries to normalize their relations with Israel,” Netanyahu added, alongside White House adviser Jared Kushner and Son-in-law of President Donald Trump, and Presidential National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.
Until then, peace with the Palestinians was seen as the prerequisite for any normalization of relations between Israel and the rest of the Arab and Muslim world.
But the Jewish state has tried to reverse the equation in recent years to convince Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel, without waiting for peace with the Palestinians.
Palestinians castigated the deal between Israel and the Emirates, which they called a “stab in the back” by Abu Dhabi, and argued that other Arab countries “could not speak for the Palestinians . “
“If we were to wait for the Palestinians, we would wait forever,” Netanyahu said.
Beside him, Jared Kushner called the deal with the Emirates “a giant leap” and said “he has never been so optimistic about peace” in the Middle East, despite the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to revive talks with Israel on the basis of the Trump plan.
Announced last January, this plan, described on Sunday as a “gracious and realistic offer” by Mr. Kushner, provides in particular for the creation of a Palestinian state but on a reduced territory in the occupied West Bank, part of which (about 30%) would be annexed by Israel.
Demonstrating the desire to advance standardization with Abu Dhabi at high speed, an American-Israeli delegation is due to fly on Monday morning for the “first direct commercial flight” between Israel and the Emirates.
Israeli carrier El-Al’s flight LY971, whose plane was adorned with the words “Peace, salam, shalom” is due to leave Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport for Abu Dhabi on Monday morning, with senior officials on board. Israelis, including the head of the Israeli National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat, and an American delegation led by Jared Kushner.
The Emirates and Israel are geographically separated by Saudi Arabia, a country ally of the United States and close to the Emirates, but with which Israel does not maintain official relations. According to the Israeli press, Monday’s El-Al flight is expected to cross Saudi airspace.
It is not yet clear when commercial flights between the two countries will take place, or when Israelis will be able to travel to the Emirates and Emiratis to Israel, with anti-coronavirus measures currently banning Israeli soil to foreign tourists.