Netanyahu tells Saudi media far-right partners will not make West Bank policy

incoming PM says there is disinformation of coalition deals; says urges U.S. to reaffirm commitment to Saudi Arabia, expressing hope for ties with Riyadh which would be 'quantum leap' in peace
Saniel Salami|
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu said his far-right coalition partners will not decide West Bank policies.
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  • "I did not hand authority over the West Bank at all and decisions will be made by my defense minister, as is stipulated in the coalition agreements," Netanyahu told Al Arabiya English in an interview on Thursday.
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    בנימין נתניהו במליאת הכנסת
    בנימין נתניהו במליאת הכנסת
    Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: AFP )
    "My party the Likud will make up half of the coalition," he said. "The other members will work according to our policies."
    His Likud party was quick to issue a statement 'clarifying' Netanyahu's comments.
    "The prime minister designate was referring to policy decisions on matters of security that will be in the hands of the defense minister and not to the coalition agreement with the Religious Zionist Party," the statement read.
    In his coalition deal, Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotrich will be appointed a minister in the Defense Ministry with wide authority and will not answer to the minister of defense. According to the wording of the agreement, Smotrich will work in coordination with the prime minister.
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     Bezalel Smotrich
     Bezalel Smotrich
    Bezalel Smotrich
    (Photo: Assaf Chen)
    In the interview, Netanyahu said he urged key ally the United States to reaffirm its commitment to Saudi Arabia and pledged to pursue formal Israeli ties with Riyadh for a "quantum leap" in peace.
    The U.S.-Saudi strategic partnership has frayed under President Joe Biden's administration and there has been tension between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, which forged relations with Israel.
    "The traditional (U.S.) alliance with Saudi Arabia and other countries, has to be reaffirmed. There should not be periodic swings, or even wild swings in this relationship, because I think that the the anchor of stability in our region," Netanyahu told the Saudi-owned website.
    "I'm to speak to President Biden about it," Netanyahu said according to a published transcript of the interview.
    He said he was committed to building on normalization pacts signed with the UAE and Bahrain in 2020 under his leadership, known as the Abraham Accords, which created a new axis in the face of Iran's growing influence in the region.
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    15 ספטמבר 2020 דונלד טראמפ עם בנימין נתניהו ושרי החוץ של בחריין ו איחוד האמירויות חתימה על הסכמי אברהם הבית הלבן וושינגטון
    15 ספטמבר 2020 דונלד טראמפ עם בנימין נתניהו ושרי החוץ של בחריין ו איחוד האמירויות חתימה על הסכמי אברהם הבית הלבן וושינגטון
    White House signing of Abraham Accords in 2020
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia blessed the U.S.-brokered pacts but stopped short of formally recognizing Israel in the absence of a resolution to Palestinian statehood goals.
    An accord with Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam, would be a "quantum leap for an overall peace between Israel and the Arab world" and ultimately facilitate Palestinian-Israeli peace, Netanyahu said.
    "I intend to pursue it," he said, voicing hope the Saudi leadership would "partake in this effort".
    Saudi Arabia has made some gestures towards Israel, announcing in July during a visit by Biden to the kingdom that it would open Saudi airspace to all carriers. Progress on that for Israeli airlines hinges on approval from Oman on use of its airspace to skirt Iran for journeys to Asia.

    Reuters contributed to this report
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