Netanyahu makes push fo Saudi normalisation again

Netanyahu makes push fo Saudi normalisation again
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said 'normalisation and peace' with Saudi Arabia would be 'perhaps a giant leap towards ending the Arab-Israeli conflict'.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said normalisation with Saudi Arabia could be 'monumental' and 'historic' [Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto/Getty-archive]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed on Monday that normalising relations with Saudi Arabia would be a "giant leap" toward ending the Arab-Israeli conflict, despite its continued brutal crackdown on Palestinians and expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

Israel has sought normalisation with Arab states in a bid to strengthen its position in the region and expand economic opportunities, including weapons sales.

It has pushed for relations with Saudi Arabia - a key player in the region and host of Islam's two holiest sites - although Riyadh has repeatedly said this will not happen until a Palestinian state is created.

"We want normalisation and peace with Saudi Arabia. We view that as perhaps a giant leap towards ending the Arab-Israeli conflict," Netanyahu said, speaking during a meeting in Jerusalem with US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a former critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"This agreement could have monumental consequences, historic consequences both for Israel, for Saudi Arabia, for the region and for the world."

Israel illegally occupies East Jerusalem and annexed the entirety of the city in 1980. It maintains a brutal occupation of the West Bank and a siege against the Gaza Strip. 

Israel has, however, normalised diplomatic ties with several Arab states since 2020, including Saudi Arabia's neighbours the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, although most countries in the MENA region do not have ties with it.

Normalisation is highly controversial and is viewed by Palestinians as a betrayal of their national cause.

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Riyadh has held back from recognising Israel, saying such moves should be tied to resolving Palestinian statehood goals.

A huge setback for Netanyahu's efforts came last month when a China-brokered deal saw Israel's major regional foe, Iran, mend its ties with Saudi Arabia.

Iran's embassy in Riyadh reopened its gates last Wednesday for the first time in seven years.

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Separately on Monday, Israel's foreign ministry said it had asked China to exert influence on Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.

"I spoke with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, about the danger we see in the Iranian nuclear program, a danger that is shared by many countries in the region, including countries that have diplomatic relations with Iran," said Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in a statement.