‘Outside-in approach’: Peace will come if the Palestinians are last, not first, Netanyahu tells CNN

The Abraham Accords is more effective than getting “hung up” on the Palestinians, the prime minister said, in apparent disagreement with the current U.S. administration.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In an interview with CNN Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held firmly to his approach that resolving the Middle East conflict will come by putting the Palestinians last rather than first.

“We’re going to have to continue to live here together,” he told interviewer Jake Tapper, adding, however, that the Palestinians show no interest in finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We’re not going to ethnically cleanse the heartland of the Jewish people [Judea and Samaria, aka West Bank], he said. “We’re not going to ethnically cleanse Israel – 20% of Israel’s population is Arabs. We’re not going to say we’re not going to have peace until we kick out the Arabs from Israel and we’re not going to have peace until we kick out the Jews from these areas which are disputed, they’re not illegal, they’re disputed areas, and the only way to resolve that dispute is to have peace negotiations with the Palestinians consistently refuse to enter.”

Because of this intransigence, he said, Israel should not get “hung up” on a Palestinians-first approach.

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The best path to achieving peace, according to the Israeli leader, is through the Abraham Accords, by reaching agreements with more Arab countries besides the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

“I went around them (Palestinians), I went directly to the Arab states and forged with a new concept of peace… I forged four historic peace agreements, the Abraham Accords, which is twice the number of peace agreements that all my predecessors in 70 years got combined,” he said, calling this method the “outside-in” approach rather than “inside-out.”

This did away with the “effective veto on Israel’s expansion of the circle of peace around it” that had been wielded for a quarter of a century by the Palestinians, he said, “who don’t want peace with Israel… who don’t want a state next to Israel but a state instead of Israel.”

“If we wait for them, we’re not going to have peace,” he said, but “if we make peace with Saudi Arabia – it depends on the Saudi leadership – and bring effectively the Arab-Israeli conflict to an end, I think we’ll circle back to the Palestinians and get a workable peace with the Palestinians. I think that’s possible, and I think that’s the way to go.”

This method stands in sharp contrast to the approach of President Joe Biden, who has renewed intense contact and given financial and verbal support to the Palestinian Authority in a throwback to the way previous administrations have acted for decades without success.

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When asked what concessions he would give to Palestinians in return for normalization of ties with Riyadh, Netanyahu said, “I’m certainly willing to have them have all the powers that they need to govern themselves. But none of the powers that could threaten us, and this means that Israel should have the overriding security responsibility.”

He underscored the importance of this point by noting that whenever Israel left territory on its borders, its most steadfast strategic enemy moved in via its proxies and supporters.

“Every time we moved out, say from Lebanon, basically Iran came in with its proxy, Hezbollah,” the prime minister said. “We moved out of Gaza, another radical Islamist, the Hamas, took over. And if we just walk away [from Judea and Samaria], as people suggest, then you’ll have Hamas and Iran move into the hills around Jerusalem, overlooking Tel Aviv.”

The interview came on the heels of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to the region, where the top U.S. diplomat urged a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and demonstrated the Biden administration’s total reversal of Trump’s policy of conditioning aid to the Palestinians on renouncing terror.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu said, “I think President Biden’s commitment to Israel is real. It’s not just words. It’s genuine, comes from the heart, and our commitment – my commitment to the alliance with the United States is real…but it doesn’t mean we agree on everything. We have disagreements.”