On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Arab nations with covert ties to Israel to acknowledge their relationships with the Jewish state.
Speaking to a group of Jewish leaders from the US, Netanyahu said that most moderate Arab countries – he declined to name any specifically – see Israel as an ally and not an enemy. They share common foes: Iran and ISIS, he said.
“Major Arab countries are changing their view of Israel,” he said. “They don’t see Israel anymore as their enemy, but they see Israel as their ally, especially in the battle against militant Islam with its two fountainheads.”
He said that these “discreet” new ties should be brought out into the open, and that Israel should be proactive in encouraging these Arab nations to make changes in their public discourse towards Israel. “Now, this is something that is forging new ties, many of them discreet, some of them open. And I think there too we can expect and should expect and should ask to see a change,” he told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization.
On the same day, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that while there are indeed open channels of communication between Israel and several Arab states, the sensitivity of the situation prevents him from “shaking hands” with Arab officials in public, though they do “meet in closed rooms.”
Ya’alon said that Israel has channels to speak with neighboring Sunni Arab countries – not just Jordan and Egypt, which both have peace treaties with Israel, but Gulf states and North African states, which he declined to name.
“For them, Iran is an enemy,” said the Defense Minister, adding that the Arab states are “frustrated and furious at the lack of Western support” in fighting militant Islam.
In his talk, Netanyahu also touched on nations which, while reaching out to Israel privately, still often condemn it on the international stage.
There is a worldwide trend of countries like China, India, Russia and Japan working to strengthen their ties with Israel, Netanyahu said. These countries fear militant Islam and want to benefit from Israel’s experience and intelligence in dealing with terror, but they also hope to take advantage of Israel’s many technological advances in agriculture, water management, and biotechnology.
At the same time, he continued, these countries still often raise their voices against Israel, despite quiet diplomatic advances to befriend the state. He called for a change in this status quo. “We need these countries who are coming to us to change their votes in international forums,” he said.
Netanyahu added that Israel “shouldn’t accept that there is this strange dichotomy and dissonance between the friendship and the alliances that are being built between Israel and the many countries, and the way they vote about Israel in international forums.”