After Deal, Netanyahu Insists Sovereignty Still on the Table

View of the Jordan Valley, June 17. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in an interview on Army Radio Sunday, clarified that the plan to apply sovereignty to the Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron remains on the government’s agenda, even following Israel’s signing of a diplomatic agreement with the United Arab Emirates.

“Sovereignty has not been dropped from the agenda,” he said. “I was the person who made it a part of the Trump deal and obtained American agreement. We will apply sovereignty with American consent. It was not possible at this time, due to the priority of signing an agreement with the UAE – it was the Americans who requested that we postpone it.

“In the same way that nobody believed I would bring a peace agreement, I will also bring the sovereignty,” he added.

The UAE and White House adviser Jared Kushner have said the sovereignty pledge is now off the table.

Earlier Sunday, in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu hailed the deal with the UAE as “historic,” saying it was the first time Israel had reached peace with an Arab state on the basis of “peace for peace” and not for land.

“Last Thursday, together with U.S. President Donald Trump and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, I declared the historic peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. This is the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab country in 26 years. It is different from its predecessors because it is based on two principles: ‘peace for peace’ and ‘peace through strength.’ Under this doctrine, Israel is not required to withdraw from any territory and together the two countries openly reap the fruits of a full peace: Investments, trade, tourism, health, agriculture, environmental protection and in many other fields, including defense of course.

“This peace was not achieved because Israel weakened itself by withdrawing to the 1967 lines. It was achieved because Israel strengthened itself by cultivating a free economy, and military and technological strength, and by combining these two strengths to achieve unprecedented international influence.

“This strong international position found expression in our willingness to take a stand against Iran’s aggression in the region and its efforts to attain nuclear weapons. The fact that we stood alone, and sometimes I had to stand alone against the whole world against Iran and the dangerous nuclear agreement with it, this made a major impression on Arab leaders in the region.

“A simple fact was proven anew: Strength attracts and weakness repels. In the Middle East, the strong survive and with strength, one makes peace. I have advanced the cultivation of Israel’s strength over the years and thereby the doctrine of ‘peace for peace’ as well. I do this with leaders around the Arab and Islamic worlds.

“This doctrine stands in complete contradiction to the concept that held, up until a few days ago, that no Arab country would agree to make an official and open peace with Israel before a conclusion was achieved in the conflict with the Palestinians. In the Palestinians’ view, and in the view of many in the world who agreed with them, it would be impossible to achieve this peace with our capitulating to the Palestinians’ demands, including the uprooting of communities, the division of Yerushalayim and a withdrawal to the 1967 lines.

“In effect, this mistaken concept gave the Palestinians a veto over achieving peace between Israel and Arab countries. It held Israel and the Arab world as hostages to the Palestinians’ most extreme demands, which put the State of Israel in genuine existential danger. Perhaps, in my view, the greatest danger was that more than a few Israelis agreed with the absurd conditions. No more. This concept of ‘peace through withdrawal and weakness’ is gone from the world. It has been replaced by a different concept: Genuine peace, peace for peace, peace through strength. This is what we are advancing today.

“I remind you that in the current agreement, not only has Israel not withdrawn from so much as one square meter, rather the Trump plan includes, at my request, the application of Israeli sovereignty over extensive territories in Yehudah and Shomron.

“It was I who insisted on including sovereignty in the plan, and this has not changed. President Trump is committed to it and I am committed to conducting negotiations on this basis. At the U.N. in 2013, I said that for years, many believed that Israeli-Palestinian peace would advance a broader reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world. I said that I was of the view that peace would be achieved in the opposite fashion: It was expanding reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world that would likely advance an Israeli-Palestinian peace. I added that in order to achieve this peace, we had to gaze not only at Yerushalayim and Ramallah, but at Cairo, Amman, Abi Dhabi, Riyadh and other places as well.”

Netanyahu said that he envisions additional countries joining the circle of peace with Israel. “This historic change will also advance peace with the Arab world and, in the end, peace, true peace, monitored, secure, with the Palestinians as well,” he added.