Israeli president says Saudi normalisation could be ‘historic game-changer’

JERUSALEM: Israeli President Isaac Herzog has said that a normalisation of relations with Saudi Arabia could be a historic “game-changer” in the Middle East, CNN reported.

Speaking at the Israel Democracy Institute, Herzog said that he had discussed the possibility with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Sunday.

“There is an option for normalisation with Saudi Arabia. This is a move that could bring about tremendous change, a historic ‘game-changer’ that constitutes a victory over the empire of evil,” Herzog said.

Herzog said that “empire” was more than Hamas, and that Israel’s enemies were trying to destroy its international connections.

“Iran and its proxies, along with various promoters of boycotts, are attempting in every way to damage these connections through an aggressive, cynical international campaign against us. This was evident yesterday in the outrageous statement by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, who equated the government of Israel — a democratic state — with the leaders of a murderous terrorist organisation.”

“There’s going to have to be some period of quiet, I think, in Gaza, and there’s going to have to be a conversation about how do you deal with the question of the future of Palestinian governance,” Ambassador Jack Lew said while speaking on the occasion.

“My view is, that strategic benefit is worth taking the risk of getting into that conversation about. But that’s a decision that the government of Israel will have to make and the people of Israel will have to make.”

The United States on Monday described as “near final” a bilateral defence pact with Saudi Arabia. Once completed, it would be part of a broad deal presented to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to decide whether to make concessions to secure a normalisation of ties with Riyadh.

Netanyahu has long promoted such a diplomatic prize. But, seven months into a war with Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip whom Israel has sworn to eradicate, a ceasefire is elusive and he says it is premature to discuss day-after Palestinian rule.

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