‘Six or seven Muslim countries will follow Saudis to normalize ties with Israel’ – Foreign Minister

Israeli Foreign Minister says deal with Saudi Arabia is ‘definitely possible,’ he met with several Muslim countries’ representatives who said they’d follow Riyadh’s lead.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told Kan News Friday that he believes “at least” half a dozen Muslim countries will follow Saudi Arabia’s lead, should Riyadh and Jerusalem normalize ties.

Cohen was interviewed at the United Nations after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of how a “new Middle East” is being created as more Arab countries establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Cohen noted that during his General Assembly address, Netanyahu had said that “a peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia also means peace between the Jewish people and the greater Muslim world.”

“There are another six or seven countries that will join that peace agreement, that I have met with – significant Muslim countries with which we do not have relations that are interested,” he said.

He then backtracked slightly, saying that he had personally met with “several” of those countries’ representatives. He refused to name them, saying simply that they are “from Africa and Asia.”

When asked, he said that normalization with Saudi Arabia was “definitely possible,” pointing to the “historic statement” that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman made during his interview on Fox News, “when he turned directly to the camera and said that they are reaching for a peace agreement.”

“Every day we’re getting closer,” he added, saying that the next leader of Saudi Arabia would not have spoken that way in public if a deal was not reachable.

Cohen also asserted that the Likud’s national-religious partners would be able to live with the Saudi conditions for a deal “because Israel’s security will be strengthened by this peace.”

Among Riyadh’s most controversial demands from the Israeli point of view are the ability to enrich uranium locally, which would make it easier for the Saudis to turn a civilian nuclear program into a military one, and land concessions to the Palestinians. The latter demand has been a declared non-starter for the Otzma Yehudit faction, headed by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Netanyahu, Cohen and several other ministers spent the week in New York meeting with top officials from many countries on the sidelines of the opening session of the UN General Assembly, when most countries’ heads of state or top ministers speak, voluntarily limiting themselves to 15 minutes each.

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Among the most important of the more than a dozen leaders whom Netanyahu himself met with were U.S. President Joe Biden, whom he had not seen face-to-face since being elected, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Others included the leaders of Paraguay, the Congo, Fiji and Nauru, who all promised or repledged that they would soon be moving their embassies to Jerusalem.