FEBRUARY 26, 2017 12:04
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz says new US administration working to boost ties between Israel and moderate Sunni countries in the region.

The Trump administration is working to strengthen ties between Israel and moderate Sunni states in the region for the purpose of advancing the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, said Intelligence Minister Israel Katz (Likud).

In an interview with the Washington Post published Sunday, Katz acknowledged that Israel has relations with certain unnamed Sunni Arab countries that have no official peace deal or diplomatic ties with Jerusalem.

The minister indicated that due to the relative weakness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and recent changes within the Hamas leadership, a direct approach has become increasingly difficult.

Therefore, he said he has been pushing his vision for achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians which involved a multilayered regional approach with coordination between moderate Arab states along with moderate Palestinians.

Katz explained that one aspect of bolstering the Israeli-Sunni alliance consisted of uniting in the fight against extremist groups wreaking havoc in the region, such as Islamic State and al-Qaida along with the Shi’ite axis of Iran and Hezbollah.

The new White House administration’s shift on the Middle East conflict has provided Israel with mechanisms and backing in order to strengthen security cooperation with Sunni states, Katz told the Washington Post.

“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu went to America after many discussions here in which we spoke about the idea for regional peace, based on security and economic considerations in the region,” he said of the premier’s recent visit to Washington to meet with US President Donald Trump.

The minister mentioned that along with security coordination, regional economics can serve as a path for forging diplomatic and political ties with the Arab world.

In the case that intelligence sharing and a level of strategic regional cooperation is attained, Katz said he envisions a plan to physically close the gap between Israel and the Arab world with a train line that runs from Beit Shean to Jordan, and from there can branch out to various destinations in the region.

Katz stated that he has already garnered support from Netanyahu for the venture and efforts are in the works to gain backing from Gulf states, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

He further noted that despite recent questions surrounding the issues, the United States still supports a two-state solution and Netanyahu has not rejected it.

“It’s not that we are against two states, but, as one White House official pointed [out] – ‘if you ask five people what two states would look like, you’d get eight different answers,’” he said.

Katz asserted that, in fact, Trump has opened the playing field for peace.