Basking in New Ties to Arab States, Netanyahu Says More Are Coming - Press "Enter" to skip to content

Basking in New Ties to Arab States, Netanyahu Says More Are Coming

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel predicted on Tuesday that more Arab and Muslim nations would “soon, very soon” establish diplomatic relations with his country, following the agreements signed this month with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Netanyahu also accused the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah of manufacturing and storing explosive weapons near Beirut’s airport, which he said risked replicating the devastating Beirut port explosion in August that killed hundreds and wrecked a swath of the Lebanese capital. There has been no indication that the disaster, caused by an abandoned stockpile of ammonium nitrate, involved any weapons.

The Israeli leader delivered his speech via prerecorded video because the General Assembly has been held virtually this year, but he still employed the theatrical devices he has used in previous speeches before the world body. Pointing to an annotated map of Beirut, he highlighted what he described as the weapons hazards posed by Hezbollah and its main backer, Iran — not just to Israel, but to the Lebanese.

“I say to the people of Lebanon, Israel means you no harm,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “But Iran does. Iran and Hezbollah have deliberately put you and your families in grave danger.”

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Lebanon has maintained its longstanding opposition to normalizing ties with Israel, and tensions between the two have periodically flared along the border in part because of Hezbollah’s weapons caches and rocket attacks on Israel. Israel has invaded Lebanon multiple times, most recently in 2006, trying to uproot its enemies.

Mr. Netanyahu barely mentioned the coronavirus pandemic, which has severely affected Israel. Rather, he focused on what he described as optimistic developments in the Middle East, a “region not exactly renowned for producing good news.”

He praised President Trump for having broken with what the Israeli leader described as the “failed strategies of the past” in seeking a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Netanyahu linked Mr. Trump’s involvement directly to the decisions by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to establish diplomatic relations with Israel — the first Arab countries to do so in more than 25 years.

Those decisions outraged the Palestinian leadership, who saw them as a betrayal of Arab solidarity in pressuring the Israelis over the lack of meaningful negotiations for a Palestinian state in Israeli-occupied lands.

“These new agreements will bring our peoples the blessings of peace and the enormous benefits that come with more trade, more investment, more commerce, transportation, tourism, increased cooperation in so many other areas,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

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“I also have no doubt,” he said, “that more Arab and Muslim countries will be joining the circle of peace, soon, very soon.”

There has been speculation that Sudan may establish diplomatic relations with Israel. President Trump has said that Saudi Arabia, which has enormous influence over the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and was reported to have assented to their decisions, might follow suit. But Saudi Arabia’s monarch, King Salman, gave no hint of such a step in his own speech to the General Assembly last week.


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