Saudi deal would mean 'end of Arab-Israeli conflict' says Fleur Hassan Nahoum

The deputy mayor of Jerusalem said that securing a deal with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is Netanyahu's priority


The Jewish Chronicle hosted panel event at the Embassy of Israel in London. Copyright John Nguyen/JNVisuals 06/06/2023

A historic peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel would mean the 'end of the Arab-Israeli conflict' according to the firebrand deputy mayor of Jerusalem.

Speaking at a special JC event held at the Israeli embassy to discuss Israel’s relationship with Britain over the next 75 years, Nahoum said that she believed work was being done behind the scenes to move towards Saudi-Israeli normalisation.

At the panel event, hosted by JC editor Jake Wallis Simons, the Israeli ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely said she was prepared to work with whichever party wins the next election, adding that she enjoyed strong relationships with many of the Labour shadow cabinet.

Hotovely also added that it was time to end the PA’s “horrible pay-for-slay” policy, through which the families of jailed or slain terrorists receive financial rewards, and for UK supporters of the Palestinians to stop demanding Israel’s eradication by chanting the Hamas slogan, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

She noted that Neil Wigan, the outgoing British ambassador to Israel, had told her that while his predecessors had spent 80 per cent of their time on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, he had spent the same proportion on other “regional and global” matters -  as was only appropriate for two countries that had such a strong alliance and many common interests.

Hotovely also spoke about a dinner with Tony Blair in which the former PM revealed his biggest political regret is “failing to see how corrupt the Palestinian leadership is."

After stepping down as Prime Minister in 2007, Blair spent eight years as the Middle East peace envoy for the Quartet, an ad hoc coalition consisting of the USA, EU, UN and Russia. His time in the job was marked by a series of initiatives that aimed to foster peace by boosting the Palestinian economy.

But Hotovely said that when she asked Blair what Israel could learn from the Northern Ireland peace process and the Good Friday agreement he brokered, the former prime minister told her that “all sides in Ireland had a strong economic incentive to make peace, and I don’t see that in the Middle East”.

Hotovely said she agreed with Blair’s analysis, adding that in her view, “not enough is said about corruption and the lack of respect for human rights within the Palestinian Authority, and the fact that half the Palestinians are ruled by the terror group Hamas.”

Several of the event’s other speakers, JC writers Anshel Pfeffer and Jonathan Freedland, Natasha Hausdorff, legal director of UK Lawyers for Israel, and Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, discussed the significance of the current constitutional upheaval over Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform package.

Hausdorff said the reforms to a Supreme Court that had overreached were long overdue, but to Freedland, they posed a “real threat” to Israeli democracy.

Pfeffer compared the negotiations over the reforms now being brokered by President Isaac Herzog to” hedgehogs making love”. He believed democracy would survive, partly because public opinion had turned decisively against the proposed changes, but also because Netanyahu’s true priorities lay elsewhere, with combating the threat from Iran and enlarging the Abraham Accords to normalise relations with Saudi Arabia.

Hassan-Nahoum pointed out that although there had been months of huge demonstrations against the reforms, 300,000 people had marched on the streets in support of them.

Already, she went on, there were many developments taking place on the economic front “below the radar”, just as had happened in the years before the Accords with the United Arab Emirates.

Hotovely was asked whether she thought that as well as its judiciary, Israel should reform its electoral system, which gives to numerous parties and unstable coalitions. “I love the British and American systems”, she said, but she saw little chance of Israel adopting either of them, because “we’re a start-up nation and everyone loves to create new parties”.

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