Benjamin Netanyahu
(Photo: DEBBIE HILL/POOL/AFP via Getty)

The Arab world is not waiting for the Palestinians to make peace with Israel before they do, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, in remarks to the press with White House Special Adviser Jared Kushner and US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

“For far too long, the Palestinians have had a veto on peace, not only between the Palestinians and Israel, but Israel and the Arab states,” Netanyahu said.

The Palestinians demanded that hundreds of thousands of Jews be evacuated from their homes and that Israel withdraw to “indefensible” pre-1967 lines, Netanyahu said, adding: “If we had to wait for the Palestinians, we would have to wait forever. But no longer.”

Netanyahu pointed to the UAE canceling its boycott of Israeli goods over the weekend, and said that it will pave the way for more countries in the region to normalize ties with Israel. He said that in addition to the meetings that were made public in recent years – such as with the leaders of Oman, Sudan and Chad – there are many more secret meetings with leaders in the region who seek to strengthen their ties with Israel.

“The day will come – it won’t be far away – when we will ask how could it have been any other way. Today’s breakthroughs will become tomorrow’s norms,” he said.

Netanyahu said he is willing to negotiate peace with the Palestinians based on US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which he emphasized does not require any Israelis or Palestinians to evacuate their homes.

“As more Arab and Muslim countries join the circle of peace [the Palestinians] will be hard-pressed to remain outside,” he predicted.

“We are ready to till fields of peace and bring its bountiful fruits to our people,” he said.

Kushner, O’Brien, US Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz and US Iran envoy Brian Hook, together with an Israeli delegation led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, are set to take the first-ever direct flight from Israel to the UAE on Monday, on an El Al plane bearing the word “peace” in Arabic, Hebrew and English in honor of the historic moment.

Netanyahu said he will not allow the “tyrants of Tehran” to “scuttle peace and endanger the entire world.”

The prime minister thanked US President Donald Trump for leaving the Iran nuclear deal and declaring snapback sanctions, and pointed out that the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes the UAE and Saudi Arabia, among others, now openly support the American position on the matter when they used to do so more quietly.

Peace between Israel and the UAE could not have happened without help from the US, Netanyahu added, saying that Kushner’s “critics have been proven dead wrong.”

Kushner showed some understanding of his detractors, saying that they had “the common perspective,” but that he and his team “worked together to defy the odds and accomplish something few thought was possible.”

“We should take a moment to celebrate a historic breakthrough for peace,” Kushner said of Israel-UAE normalization. “It’s an accomplishment that does not happen often [and] did not happen easily.”

Kushner said the Trump peace plan, the formulation of which he led, “showed other people in the region that Israel was serious, which led to the breakthrough we had today.”

The Special Adviser to the US president described a Middle East that was in turmoil three years ago, between the spread of ISIS and Iran having funds to ensure its proxies like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and others were “basically flush with cash,” and credited Trump with reversing the trend and “writing a script for a new Middle East.”

While in the recent past, some saw the region as hopeless, Kushner said “in the last couple of weeks [there] is a new sense of optimism. We must seize that optimism and help this region achieve the potential it truly has.”

He credited UAE leader Mohammed bin Zayed with being “very courageous” and having built a country that “hopefully the rest of the Middle East can aspire to.”

Kushner expressed his personal excitement over the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE, saying that “as the grandson of two holocaust survivors, it means more to me and my family that I can ever express.”

“We will continue to pursue peace between Israel and its Arab and Muslim neighbors,” he stated.

O’Brien spoke of the potential of the peace deal, saying that “combining Israel’s innovation and creativity with the UAE’s financial centers and capital [can be] truly incredible for the Middle East.”

“Israel and the UAE are putting the region on a truly transformative path,” he added.

Earlier Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office denied a report that Netanyahu removed Defense Ministry representatives from the planned special flight to the UAE.

A Defense Ministry delegation is expected to head to Abu Dhabi in the coming weeks. The US and UAE sought to have the public meetings with Israelis be about civilian matters.

The PMO also said Netanyahu coordinated the matter with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, which his ministry confirmed.