‘At the cusp’ of historic peace with Saudis, Benjamin Netanyahu tells UN
Bibi UN speech

‘At the cusp’ of historic peace with Saudis, Benjamin Netanyahu tells UN

With Saudi diplomat in attendance, PM offers vision of ‘new Middle East’ and AI-enabled future, but ignores bitter fight over judicial overhaul back home and on NYC streets

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UN General Assembly. Photo: Bryan R. Smith / AFP
Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UN General Assembly. Photo: Bryan R. Smith / AFP

TIMES OF ISRAEL – Taking the stage at the UN General Assembly on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is “at the cusp” of a historic peace agreement with Saudi Arabia, a deal he predicted will transform the Middle East.

“Such a peace will go a long way to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict,” said Netanyahu. “It will encourage other Arab states to normalise their relations with Israel. It will enhance the prospects of peace with the Palestinians. It will encourage a broader reconciliation between Judaism and Islam.

“Peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia will truly create a new Middle East,” Netanyahu said to applause from dozens of Jews and Israelis in the gallery who came to show their support.

The hall was largely empty on the last morning of the confab, but in an encouraging sign, a lone Saudi official wearing a black head covering sat listening to the entire speech.

The address came days after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Fox News that “every day we get closer” to normalising ties with Israel.

Netanyahu chose to focus his General Assembly speech on his grand visions — peace with Riyadh, an AI future — and not on the fight back at home over the judicial overhaul, even as hundreds of protestors waving Israeli flags gathered outside.

Netanyahu went out of his way to praise US President Joe Biden, saying he “deeply appreciates” the president’s commitment to “seize this historic opportunity.”

“We share the same optimism for what can be achieved… The United States of America is indispensable in this effort,” he said.

Biden and Netanyahu met on Wednesday in New York, with the US president extending an invitation to the White House in front of the cameras, which has eluded the premier since his return to power at the end of last year.

“And just as we achieved the Abraham Accords with the leadership of President Trump, I believe we can achieve peace with Saudi Arabia with the leadership of President Biden,” Netanyahu said.

As he often does at his UN speeches, Netanyahu pulled out a visual aid showing “the New Middle East,” echoing a phrase first used in the 1990s by Israeli statesman Shimon Peres amid hopes for blossoming peace in the region as Israel secured accords with the Palestinians and Jordan.

“Today I bring this marker to show a great blessing — the blessing of a new Middle East: between Israel, Saudi Arabia and our other neighbours,” said Netanyahu. “We will not only bring down barriers between Israel and our neighbours. We will build a new corridor of peace and prosperity that connects Asia through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel to Europe.”

Netanyahu also turned to the prospect of peace with the Palestinians, seeking to present himself as a would-be peacemaker.

“I’ve long sought to make peace with the Palestinians,” he said. But Netanyahu said they “must not have a veto” over peace with Arab states. He argued that making peace with more Arab countries will push the Palestinians to make peace with Israel.

The Palestinians long hoped that the Arab world, “being in a warlike state with Israel,” would eventually “choke” the Jewish state, he charged.

“When the Palestinians see that most of the Arab world has reconciled itself to the Jewish state, they too will be more likely to abandon the fantasy of destroying Israel and finally embrace the path of genuine peace with it.”

He blasted PA President Mahmoud Abbas for “spreading the horrible antisemitic conspiracies against the Jewish people and the Jewish state.”

Noting Abbas’s antisemitic speech last month, he said, “I mean, he recently said that Hitler wasn’t an antisemite. You can’t make this up. But he did. He said that.”

He added that the PA must stop glorifying terrorists and stop the ghoulish practice of giving money to Palestinian terrorists for killing Jews. “It must stop, for peace to prevail.”

Netanyahu also spent significant time on the Iranian nuclear threat and Tehran’s support for terrorism.

“The fanatics ruling Iran will do everything they can to thwart this historic peace,” Netanyahu exhorted.

He accused Iran of spending billions to arm its proxies and spread terror worldwide.

The premier said Iran’s “murderous goons” have killed hundreds of its own people in the past year. “Iran’s drones have… brought death and destruction” to Ukraine, he added.

“Yet the regime’s aggression is largely met by indifference in the international community.”

read more: