Israel sees ‘great opportunity’ for Palestinians to ‘join the path of peace’

“The Middle East is changing” with the recent normalisation accords, said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat.
Sunday 25/10/2020
Emirati official stands at the door of an Israeli El Al airliner after it landed in Abu Dhabi. (AP)
Emirati official stands at the door of an Israeli El Al airliner after it landed in Abu Dhabi. (AP)

LONDON – A senior Israeli official said Sunday that Israel’s normalisation process with Arab countries represents a “great opportunity” for Palestinians to “join the path of peace” and that his government would welcome the Palestinian leadership to the negotiating table anytime.

US President Donald Trump sealed a normalisation agreement between Israel and Sudan on Friday, the third such agreement between an Arab nation and the Jewish state in two months.

The agreement was discussed during a phone call between Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Transitional Council Head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat after arrival at Bahrain International Airport,  October 18. (REUTERS)
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat after arrival at Bahrain International Airport,  October 18. (REUTERS)

Trump paved the way for the announcement by moving Khartoum off the US’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lior Haiat said the new deal “is a great opportunity for the Palestinian leadership to come back to the negotiating table with Israel and we are willing to sit and talk immediately.”

“We would be happy to see the Palestinians joining us on the path of peace in the framework of the Abraham Accords,” he said.

The senior Israeli official called on the Palestinian leadership to choose “on which side of history they are – peace or conflict.”  He described the Middle East as being divided between two groups: “Countries who chose peace, prosperity and a better future for them and their children, and the group who promote violence, terrorism and hatred which is led by Iran and the terrorists organisations which it funds and directs.”

As they did after previous normalisation agreements between Israel and both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the Palestinians stigmatised Friday Sudan’s normalisation with the Jewish state.

“The State of Palestine expressed today its condemnation and rejection of the deal to normalise ties with the Israeli occupation country which usurps Palestinian land,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s office said in a statement.

Israeli policies on settlements remain, however, a contentious issue with the Palestinians, who want to establish their own state in the West Bank. Arab countries, including those who have signed peace agreements with Israel, oppose Netanyahu’s intent to go ahead with annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Addressing the prospects of relations between his country and Khartoum, the Israeli spokesman said there are “many opportunities for cooperation” between the two nations. He singled out”economic cooperation, trade, cooperation in the field of agriculture, science and also many other civil issues.”

“Through dialogue between our countries we can find the areas of cooperation and common interest, promote peace and understanding, and contribute to the prosperity of the two people,” he added. “We hope to promote peace and normalisation soon.”

Israel and Sudan plan to start the normalisation process by opening economic and trade links, with an initial focus on agriculture, a joint statement said. US officials said the formal establishment of diplomatic ties would be addressed at a later stage. Washington pledged to help with international debt relief to cash-strapped Sudan.

“Agreement on normalisation with Israel will be decided after completion of the constitutional institutions through the formation of the legislative council,” Sudanese Foreign Minister Omar Gamareldin said on state television after the normalisation announcement.

Haiat expressed the view that the momentum created by normalisation deals will have broader implications on regional peace and security.

President Donald Trump talks on a phone call with the leaders of Sudan and Israel, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, left, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, applaud in the Oval Office of the White House, Oct. 23, in Washington. ( AP)
President Donald Trump talks on a phone call with the leaders of Sudan and Israel, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, left, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, applaud in the Oval Office of the White House, Oct. 23, in Washington. (AP)

“The Middle East is changing through the Abraham Accords,” he stressed. “This change is a new reality that will contribute to the stability and prosperity in the region.”

Welcoming the favourable reactions to the Arab-Israeli peace agreements, the Israeli spokesman expressed hope that “more countries will choose the path of peace for the good of the region and the future of the next generations.”Many Western nations and a number of Arab countries, including Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, have welcomed the agreement.

The US president said Friday more Arab countries are willing to normalise with Israel.

“We have at least five more that want to come in and we’ll have many more than that soon,” Trump said.