Knesset on Tuesday kicked off a largely ceremonial session to approve the normalization deal with Bahrain, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu starting the proceedings by claiming there were more Arab countries ready to sign similar deals.
Bahrain and Israel last month signed a joint communique to formalize ties during a visit by an Israeli and U.S. delegation to Manama in an effort to broaden cooperation that Washington has promoted as an anti-Iran bulwark and potential economic bonanza.
Bahrain followed the United Arab Emirates in agreeing to normalize ties with Israel, stunning Palestinians who had demanded statehood before any such regional rapprochement.
Speaking at the start of the session, Netanyahu said soon more Arab countries will join "the peace circle" that will stand "as a wall against the radical Islam led by Iran".
"Peace deals with the UAE, Bahrain and normalization with Sudan have not fallen on us from the sky," he said. "It has come from a change in policy. In the last decade, Israeli governments have systematically nurtured our power when it comes to security, economy, cyber, foreign relations and other spheres. Israel is becoming closer with other Arab countries as well, including those that have not yet said it publicly."
At some point, the prime minister was heckled by MKs from the Arab Joint List party, who voted in the Knesset against the agreement with the UAE. "Today you have the opportunity to amend [the vote against the UAE deal]. And if not today, we will give you many more chances later," Netanyahu told the Arab lawmakers.
He also thanked U.S. President Donald Trump, to whom he referred as "our great friend", who recently lost the election to Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
"I thank him for his firm stance against Iran, his consistent support [of Israel] in the UN, strengthening security ties and peace agreements. I welcome the fact that my friend Joe Biden and with him, Kamela Harris, have also welcomed these agreements."
Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz took the stand right after Netanyahu and called on the Palestinians to come back to the negotiating table.
"The Palestinian leadership has not understood that it is time to put away the excuses, return to the negotiating table and work together to find a solution," Gantz said. "I call on Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership - if not won't do it for you, do it for your children. They, the future generation, deserve a future of peace."