Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that the regional shifts in the Middle East presents Israel with possible opportunities to create new alliances.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark 70 years since VE Day, Netanyahu acknowledged the challenges facing his new government, which was finalised this week and holds just a single-seat majority. However, he said that, “The biggest challenge is Iran’s attempts to arm itself with nuclear weapons, and in parallel to open fronts of terrorism and occupation throughout the Middle East around our borders.” Tehran is a major supplier of finances and arms to both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Emphasising that although Israel is well-equipped to face such challenges, Netanyahu also said that the prospect of a nuclear Iran is a shared threat for others in the region. He commented, “This creates joint interests and also perhaps creates opportunities to develop alliances and possibly move peace forward,” adding, “We will examine all these options.” Gulf states and Saudi Arabia have publicly expressed their concern over the nascent nuclear deal being negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 powers (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany). Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian forces have recently fought against Iranian allies in Yemen.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September, Netanyahu again provided a regional context for peace, saying that it depended on “Cairo, Amman, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and elsewhere” just as much as Israel and the Palestinians. And at a counter-terrorism conference in September, Netanyahu contended that “many Sunni Arab states … understand Israel is not their enemy but their ally” and that this “presents an opportunity for cooperation and perhaps an opportunity for peace.”
Yesterday, US President Barack Obama congratulated Netanyahu on forming a new government, saying that he “looks forward” to working together. In particular, Obama said they will work together “to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and the importance of pursuing a two-state solution.”