Israeli Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu on Monday said Israel favors peace with Arab countries over annexation of the West Bank, in his first interview with an Emirati network since inking a deal to normalize relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
The Israeli prime minister told the Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia the U.S. requested he suspend his plans to apply sovereignty over parts of the West Bank in return for diplomatic ties with the UAE, and added such a deal was Israel’s “number one” priority right now.
He added that other Arab countries will follow the UAE and establish diplomatic ties with Israel in the near future.
Netanyahu further claimed that “the agreement will ultimately lead to peace with the Palestinians.”
He also said that both countries would benefit “greatly from the deal.”
Part of the plan would see Israel importing from the UAE’s “free zones” — areas in which foreign companies can operate under light regulation and where foreign investors are permitted full ownership over companies.
Also on Monday, senior advisor to President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, said Israel would not go ahead with its decision to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank without the U.S.’ approval, which would not be or “some time.”
“President Trump is committed to holding them accountable to it, and Israel has agreed with us that they will not move forward without our consent,” Kushner told reporters.
“We do not plan to give our consent for some time, as right now the focus has to be on getting this new peace agreement implemented,” he added, referring to the recently signed deal to establish formal relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
Both the UAE and the U.S. said the issue of annexation had been suspended in light of the deal.
Shortly after the announcement Netanyahu stressed that while Trump had requested a “pause,” there were “no changes” to his commitment to applying sovereignty.
Hailing the “very trusting relationship” between Trump and Netanyahu, Kushner said the Israeli leader had assured Washington he would not go through with the plans without its backing.
“He has given us assurances that he won’t do it without our consent, and that’s good enough for us,” Kushner said. “We believe that agreement will hold.”
Referring to the West Bank, Kushner went on: “That is land that right now Israel, quite frankly, controls. It’s Israelis who are living there. It’s not going anywhere. There shouldn’t be any urgency to apply Israeli law. So we believe that they will stick to their agreement.”
“We really want to get as much interchange between Israel and the United Arab Emirates as possible, and we really want Israel to focus on creating new relationships and new alliances,” he added.
Trump’s peace plan sees Israel annexing 30 percent of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. It also delineates a demilitarized Palestinian state established on most of the West Bank with parts of eastern Jerusalem that are outside the Israeli security fence as its capital.
In the briefing, Kushner expressed his belief Trump’s plan could solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but added the caveat: “we’re not going to chase the Palestinian leadership.”
“We reached out to them and said the application of Israeli sovereignty is on hold,” he said.