Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is confident his government can achieve some form of normalization with Saudi Arabia in the coming months, Netanyahu said in an interview with Bloomberg Television broadcasted on Monday.
“I think that we are about to witness a pivot of history,” he told Bloomberg’s Francine Lacqua. “First, there is an economic corridor of energy, transport and communications that naturally goes through our geography from Asia through the Arabian Peninsula to Europe.
“We are going to realize that,” vowed the prime minister, adding, “Saudi Arabia is one of the exceptional things that tells you why I’m very optimistic about Israel.”
In recent weeks, officials in Jerusalem and Washington have hinted at progress in normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said that Israel is closer than it has ever been to a peace deal with the kingdom.
However, even without a formal agreement, Jerusalem can still develop an “economic corridor” with Riyadh, Netanyahu told Bloomberg on Monday.
“If there is a political will, there will be a political way to achieve normalization and formal peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia. That has enormous economic consequences for the investors and if they have to bet on it right now, I’d bet on it, but I can’t guarantee it,” he said.
Persian Gulf sources close to Saudi decision-makers and sources close to Netanyahu have voiced conflicting views regarding the Palestinian linkage. According to the sources in the Gulf, the Saudis are conditioning normalization with progress on the Palestinian front, but the Israeli sources say Riyadh has made no such stipulations.
Netanyahu on Monday downplayed claims that the Palestinian issue played a significant role in negotiations. “Is that what’s being said in corridors? Is that what’s being said in discreet negotiations? The answer is a lot less than you think,” he said.
Asked what concessions Israel would be willing to make to the Palestinians, the prime minister refused to give specific examples.
“I’ll tell you what I’m not willing to give. I’m not willing to give anything that will endanger Israel’s security. That I will not do, but I think there is enough room to discuss possibilities,” he said.
“The Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves and none of the powers to threaten Israel, which means that in whatever final peace settlement we’ll have with the Palestinians, I’d say, Israel has an overriding security power in the entire area, ours and theirs. Otherwise, we collapse, they collapse,” said Netanyahu.
The Bloomberg interview mostly focused on Netanyahu’s ongoing efforts to reform Israel’s judicial system.
On July 24, the Knesset voted to remove the “reasonableness standard,” a legal principle that allowed the Supreme Court to overturn laws based on what judges consider “acceptable.”
Other bills advancing through the Knesset would alter the way judges are appointed, give the Knesset the ability to override certain Supreme Court rulings and change the way legal advisers are appointed to government ministries.
On Monday, Netanyahu indicated that his coalition intends to shelve large parts of its judicial reform plans. “We’ve already done quite a bit,” he told Bloomberg.
Netanyahu said he plans to move ahead with changing the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee, which is responsible for appointing judges to the court. “[T] hat’s basically what’s left. Because other things, I think, we should not legislate,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.
The government is still seeking a broad consensus on the issue, added Netanyahu.
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