Addressing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, National Unity party leader Benny Gantz stressed the importance of boosting peaceful relations between Israel and its Middle East neighbors. The former Israeli defense minister, however, ruled out stepping in to join the incumbent coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I think that peace is always a good trend for the State of Israel, and if it needed my backup for that, it will get my backup for that, but I will not get into this government,” said Gantz.
“I think that I should not join Netanyahu, who betrayed my confidence,” he added.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently visiting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in Saudi Arabia in an effort to mend Washington strained ties with the conservative Middle Eastern kingdom. The U.S. Biden administration previously revealed that it views a Saudi-Israeli normalization agreement as a strategic U.S. national security interest.
Saudi Arabia and Israel currently do not have official diplomatic relations. However, the Saudis backed the American-brokered Arab-Israeli Abraham Accords in 2020. In addition, Saudi Arabia opened up its airspace to Israeli commercial flights last October.
MBS has indicated that Saudi-Israeli peace is possible in the future when the time is right. However, the crown prince will likely link a potential Saudi-Israeli deal to Israeli concessions to the Palestinian Authority. MBS claimed in May that the “Palestinian issue” was, and remains, the central political issue for the Arab world.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports an Israeli-Saudi peace deal, it is unclear whether his conservative coalition partners in the Knesset are prepared to pay the political price for realizing an official agreement. In this context, the support of Gantz and other centrist opposition lawmakers could potentially become critical for expanding the circle of Arab-Israeli peace.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.