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Netanyahu: ‘Many More’ Avenues Active on Peace Talks
An El Al worker puts finishing touches to the word “peace” in Arabic, English and Hebrew on the aircraft that flew earlier this week from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi by way of Saudi airspace. (GPO)

Netanyahu: ‘Many More’ Avenues Active on Peace Talks

Israel hopes Arab leaders will attend Washington signing ceremony for deal with UAE

Israel is talking behind closed doors with several Arab countries about establishing diplomatic ties, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed on Sunday.

“There are many more unpublished meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders to normalize relations with the State of Israel,” Netanyahu told a press conference in Jerusalem while standing next to President Donald Trump’s senior advisor, Jared Kushner.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left) hosts Jared Kushner, senior advider to US President Donald Trump, on Sunday in Jerusalem. (Matti Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem)

Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is in the Middle East to try to convince several Arab leaders to attend a planned White House signing ceremony for the US-brokered normalization deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. His stops include Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and Oman.

Trump wants to finalize peace between Israel and the UAE just weeks before the November 3 presidential election.

“The United States wants it because Trump doesn’t have any foreign policy achievement. This is probably the only one he has,” Prof. Eytan Gilboa, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, told The Media Line.

The United States wants it because Trump doesn’t have any foreign policy achievement. This is probably the only one he has

“He probably wants to have a ceremony at the White House with the leaders of the UAE, maybe other Arab leaders,” Gilboa continued. “For Trump, it would be great to add another country to the new alliance, like Bahrain, Oman or Sudan.”

On Monday, American and Israeli delegations are scheduled to travel together on a historic flight to Abu Dhabi on an El Al airliner, making it the first direct commercial flight to the United Arab Emirates from Israel.

Kushner’s tour follows visits to several Arab capitals last week by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also in an effort to get them to follow in the steps of the UAE. But if Pompeo’s visit is any indication, it does not look like this will happen anytime soon.

Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party, says the secretary of state failed to get any of the Arab governments he visited to agree to normalize relations with Israel.

“Maybe Kushner is trying to fix that,” he told The Media Line. “I think he will still face great difficulties because the people of the Arab world are against normalization without ending occupation.”

I think he will still face great difficulties because the people of the Arab world are against normalization without ending occupation

One thing has been missing from the itineraries of US officials: a stop in Ramallah. Pompeo met with no one from the Palestinian Authority, and Kushner is not expected to either. The PA, infuriated by the UAE’s decision to normalize relations with Israel, has declined to meet with US officials.

The US is not an honest broker, Barghouti says.

“The Palestinians are completely excluded from this process,” he explained. “And anyhow… it violates their basic rights.”

Barghouti accuses the Trump Administration of attempting to “distract attention” from the real problem, which is the Palestinian issue, and trying to “employ and implement its plan, which it once called the ‘deal of the century’ and which I call the ‘deceit of the century,’ which is nothing but the liquidation of Palestinian rights.”

Gilboa calls the PA reaction to the UAE deal, and its boycott of the US Administration, “very stupid,” adding: “They have missed many opportunities in the past, and this is another missed opportunity.”

They have missed many opportunities in the past, and this is another missed opportunity

The UAE deal contains a message from Arab governments to the Palestinians, he adds.

“The Arab countries are telling the Palestinians: ‘You can no longer exercise a veto on our foreign policy. We have strong interests, and our interests in combatting Iran and collaboration with Israel are more important [for us] than your desires,” Gilboa said.

Barghouti resents these assertions.

“He [Gilboa] is repeating a classic piece of Israeli propaganda,” Barghouti says.

“Stupid is the one who thinks that Palestinians will surrender and give up their rights. That is the stupidity. Stupidity lies in those who design the Trump plan thinking it is a peace plan while it is nothing but a giant act of deceit,” he says.

Stupid is the one who thinks that Palestinians will surrender and give up their rights. That is the stupidity. Stupidity lies in those who design the Trump plan thinking it is a peace plan while it is nothing but a giant act of deceit

Barghouti denies that the Palestinians have wasted an opportunity for talks.

“Palestinians never refused to negotiate,” he said. “On the contrary, they ‘over-negotiated.’ The problem is that Netanyahu blocked the negotiations for five years.”

Barghouti referenced the US-sponsored 2019 Manama economic conference, dubbed “Peace to Prosperity,” which the Palestinians boycotted and to which those Arab states that attended sent low-level delegations despite great pressure from Washington.

“The Bahrain conference was a complete failure,” Barghouti said.

The Bahrain conference was a complete failure

“Now, even after the declaration of the Emirati-Israeli agreement, it is clear that there might be another big failure by not having many [Arab] countries attend the ceremony, and the Emiratis themselves are having problems already with Israel on the issue of the F-35 airplane that the Emirates want to buy,” he says.

Gilboa disagrees, saying more Arab states will normalize relations with Israel although things are moving slowly.

“I think those countries are the next candidates for similar agreements, but they are still waiting to see what the fruits of the UAE agreement with Israel will be,” he explained.

One of the fruits Abu Dhabi is hoping to harvest is a deal to buy the highly sought F-35 stealth fighter, but Israeli officials have publicly objected.

“I don’t think this is a big problem; it will be taken care of,” Gilboa says.

He adds that these governments (Bahrain, Oman and Sudan) are still on the fence and are looking at the continued reaction of the Palestinians to the UAE’s move.

“The US role here is very important because of the compensation that Washington is willing to offer these governments,” Gilboa says.

The US role here is very important because of the compensation that Washington is willing to offer these governments

Sudan is perhaps looking less for jets and more for its removal from the US list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

Although Kushner has a close relationship with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), the de facto ruler of the kingdom, few believe Riyadh will enter into an agreement with Israel anytime soon.

“Saudi Arabia is a different case; they will be the last to do so,” Gilboa stated.

“Saudi Arabia is going through huge domestic reforms, and MbS is facing a lot of opposition to this. So I guess he doesn’t need another controversial issue to deal with now,” Gilboa says.

Barghouti says Palestinians believe the White House efforts are intended for domestic consumption.

“What the US is trying to do is boost Mr. Trump’s chances of winning the upcoming presidential election, but it will not help him much because 1) it is not really a success, and 2) the American public doesn’t care much about these issues,” Barghouti said.

What the US is trying to do is boost Mr. Trump’s chances of winning the upcoming presidential election, but it will not help him much because 1) it is not really a success, and 2) the American public doesn’t care much about these issues

On Saturday, the ruler of the UAE issued a decree formally ending the country’s boycott of Israel, allowing trade and financial agreements. Officials from the two countries have said they are looking for cooperation in defense, health, agriculture, tourism and technology.

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