Edited by: Fern Sidman
In an historic address to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday morning. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled a vision of an imminent and transformative peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, emphasizing that such a peace would not only end the Arab-Israeli conflict but also foster broader reconciliation between Judaism and Islam, as was reported by The Jerusalem Post. Against the backdrop of escalating concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Netanyahu’s speech outlined the potential for a new Middle East, characterized by prosperity and peace.
Prime Minister Netanyahu began his address by highlighting the historic opportunity for peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia through the normalization of relations. He stressed that such a peace agreement would not only transform the region but also encourage other Arab states to follow Saudi Arabia’s lead in normalizing relations with Israel, thus enhancing the prospects of peace with the Palestinians, according to the JPost report. This vision aligns with the recent trend of Israel normalizing ties with its Arab neighbors, most notably through the Abraham Accords that were brokered with U.S. support.
“We are at the cusp of an even more dramatic and historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” Netanyahu said as he stood before a mostly empty plenum during the high-level session that marks the opening of the 78th General Assembly, as was reported by the JPost.
“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. It will enhance the prospects of peace with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu added. On a global scale, he said, “It will encourage a broader reconciliation between Judaism and Islam between Jerusalem and Mecca between the descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael.”
Netanyahu illustrated the transformation using maps, comparing Israel’s situation in 1948, when it faced hostility from its Arab neighbors, to the present day, where Israel has established peaceful relations with multiple Arab nations. As was indicated in the JPost report, he underscored that a potential peace agreement with Saudi Arabia would mark a significant milestone in this transformation, tearing down the walls of enmity and ushering in an era of prosperity and stability for the entire region.
“Here’s Israel in 1948. It’s a tiny country, isolated, surrounded by a hostile Arab world. In our first seventy years, we made peace only with Egypt and Jordan,” Netanyahu said, according to the report in the JPost.
“The whole Middle East changes. We tear down the walls of enmity. We bring the possibility of prosperity and peace to this entire region,” Netanyahu said, the report added.
He recalled that he had used the same red marker at the UN plenum when highlighting the danger of a nuclear Iran.
“Today, today I bring this marker to show a great blessing… of a new Middle East, between Israel, Saudi Arabia and our other neighbors. We will not only bring down barriers between Israel and our neighbors,” the Israeli prime minister said.
Netanyahu’s address came in the midst of intensive diplomatic activity, notably during his visit to the United States. Efforts were underway to forge a quadrilateral deal involving the United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Palestinians. As was noted in the JPost report, the core of this deal would involve an agreement between Washington and Riyadh, which would, in turn, facilitate normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel. However, this diplomatic endeavor would require Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.
Reports also suggested that a potential security pact between the U.S. and Israel could be part of the comprehensive deal. These developments underscore the strategic importance of regional alliances in addressing security challenges in the Middle East.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s remarks in a Fox News interview further fueled optimism about the prospect of a Saudi-Israeli deal, characterizing the engagement as serious and suggesting that the two countries were closer than ever to an agreement, the JPost report added.
Netanyahu added that, “Working together with the leadership of Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman, we can shape a future of great blessings for all our peoples,” the JPost reported.
Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized the pivotal role of the Iran nuclear threat in regional peace and stability. He referred to Iran as “the fly in the ointment” and highlighted the need for international efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Netanyahu called for the restoration of international sanctions and the credible presence of a military deterrent as essential elements in addressing the Iran challenge.
While advocating for peace and regional reconciliation, Netanyahu stressed the importance of not allowing the Palestinians to wield a veto over Israel’s relations with Arab states. The JPost reported that he underscored the need for the Palestinians to combat the virulent anti-Semitism that is taught to their children and the need to cease payments to Palestinian terrorists, pointing to instances of historical distortion by Palestinian leaders.
Netanyahu also delved into the realm of artificial intelligence (AI), highlighting its potential as both a blessing and a curse. The JPost report said that he expressed concerns about the prospect of AI-driven wars on an unprecedented scale and the possibility of machines exerting control over humans, cautioning against the unintended consequences of AI development. In this context, he urged vigilance to ensure that AI’s utopian promise does not devolve into a dystopian reality.
Following Netanyahu’s address, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim criticized what he perceived as “flagrant hypocrisy” in dealing with the Palestinian issue. He called on the international community to speak out against human rights abuses faced by Palestinians, emphasizing the importance of addressing this long-standing conflict, according to the JPost report.