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Israel says it hopes for ties with Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, but no deals imminent

January 25, 2022 at 3:58 pm

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Casablanca, Morocco on 12 August 2021 [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]

Israel’s top diplomat said, on Tuesday, it hopes to build on its 2020 US-brokered Accords with four Muslim nations and establish diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, but such deals would take time.

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest two sites, and Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, have conditioned any eventual normalisation with Israel on the addressing of the Palestinians’ quest for statehood on territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

On Army Radio, Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, said Israel is looking to “expand the Abraham Accords to additional countries” beyond the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

“If you’re asking me what the important countries that we’re looking at are, Indonesia is one of them, Saudi Arabia of course, but these things take time,” he said.

Lapid added that “smaller countries” he did not identify, could normalise relations with Israel in the coming two years.

READ: Israel is not a normal ‘state’

Despite the absence of official ties, Saudi Arabia agreed in 2020 to allow Israel-UAE flights to cross its territory. Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett’s El Al Israel Airlines plane flew across Saudi airspace when he visited Abu Dhabi last month.

A covert visit to Saudi Arabia in November 2020 by then-Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was confirmed by Israeli officials but publicly denied by Riyadh. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia share concerns over common foe, Iran.

Both Saudi Arabia and Indonesia condemned Israel’s air strikes in Gaza during 11 days of hostilities with Palestinian militants in May 2021. More than 250 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. Rockets fired by Hamas and other militant groups killed 13 people in Israel.