Netanyahu to freeze annexation for Saudi peace deal — report

“This is a very important goal, because if we have peace with Saudi Arabia, we are effectively going to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict,” says Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is aiming to secure a peace deal with Saudi Arabia, which would see the Gulf kingdom formally normalize relations with Israel, in exchange for sidelining an annexation plan for Judea and Samaria, according to a new report.

In coalition agreements with the Religious Zionism, the Likud leader pledged to streamline de-facto annexation and provide sweeping powers regarding settlement building and expansion to the party’s head, Betzalel Smotrich, but Netanyahu is willing to scuttle those plans in order to add Saudi Arabia to the Abraham Accords, Yediot Ahronot reported on Sunday.

The Hebrew language outlet said that U.S.-brokered talks to secure a peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia are currently underway in Germany, and Netanyahu has expressed willingness to suspend annexation as a condition for signing a deal with Riyadh.

Notably, Netanyahu also agreed to freeze annexation in 2020, in exchange for the original Abraham Accords agreements, which saw normalization with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Morocco and Sudan later joined the agreement.

It’s widely believed that Israel and Saudi Arabia already maintain covert relations on security matters, especially regarding the Iranian nuclear threat.

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“We have things in place. The Saudi government’s decision to open up Saudi airspace to Israel occurred before the Abraham Accords, that gives you a pretty good clue that they didn’t look askance at the Abraham Accords,” Netanyahu told Jewish Insider on Thursday.

“Now I hope to bring about a full, formal peace as we’ve done with the other Gulf states like Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates,” he added. “It’s up to the Saudi leadership to decide that. I hope they will. And I intend to explore that alongside my other main goals. This is a very important goal, because if we have peace with Saudi Arabia, we are effectively going to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

It’s unclear how the Religious Zionism party, which campaigned heavily on a pro-settlement and pro-annexation platform, would react should Netanyahu break his promises to them in favor of peace with Saudi Arabia.