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Netanyahu warns Saudi Arabia as kingdom renews ties with Tehran

“Those who partner with Iran, partner with misery. Look at Lebanon. Look at Yemen. Look at Syria. Look at Iraq,” said the Israeli prime minister.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with CNBC's Hadley Gamble, April 19, 2023. Screenshot.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with CNBC's Hadley Gamble, April 19, 2023. Screenshot.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the Saudis about moving closer to Iran, speaking in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday. The Saudis on March 10 announced a renewal of diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic.

On Monday, Iran invited Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz to visit the country, according to an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has already accepted an invitation to visit Saudi Arabia.

“Those who partner with Iran, partner with misery. Look at Lebanon. Look at Yemen. Look at Syria. Look at Iraq,” Netanyahu cautioned amid the warming ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, describing the above countries as near failed states.

He contrasted that with those who partner with Israel, and by doing so “boost their societies.”

“We have billions of dollars now in investment and trade with the Gulf states from nothing a few years ago. We haven’t even scratched the surface,” he said.

Asked by CNBC’s Hadley Gamble what the rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran meant for Israel, Netanyahu said, “I think it has very little to do with Israel. I think it has probably a lot more to do with the desire to de-escalate or even eliminate the long-standing conflict in Yemen.

“I think that Saudi Arabia, the leadership there, has no illusions about who are their adversaries and who are their friends in the Middle East. And I think they understand that Israel is the indispensable partner for the Arab world in achieving security, prosperity and peace,” he continued.

Netanyahu said Israel is striving for peace with the kingdom and has already made advances towards normalization, referring to Saudi willingness to allow Israeli airlines to use its airspace.

The prime minister has said a Saudi peace deal would be “another huge quantum leap for peace” and would go far towards ending the Arab-Israeli conflict given Saudi Arabia’s importance in the Arab world. He clarified that it wouldn’t end the conflict given Palestinian intransigence. (“They don’t want a peace with Israel. They want to see a peace without Israel,” he said.)

Netanyahu expressed confidence that the future belongs to those who partner with Israel. “I’m telling you now that I think that there is a keen interest [by] the remaining Arab states [to] seize the future with Israel. The future belongs to those who innovate. Israel is one of the two great innovation nations in the world today.”

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