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Netanyahu Says Mideast Shift Means More Arabs May Support Peace

Arab states eager to contain Iran’s nuclear program and the Muslim Brotherhood could help Israel and the Palestinians make peace, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today at Davos.

“These governments do not see Israel as their enemy, but in many ways as their, if not ally, then their partner in holding back these dual threats,” Netanyahu said. “This is a point in time where we could get more support, more Arab support for, I think, a reasoned solution between Israel and the Palestinians than we had before.”

Saudi Arabia presented a plan for a comprehensive Mideast peace in 2002. Israel rejected key elements, though some leaders later said it could be a starting point for negotiations.

“Arab support for Israel-Palestinian peace has been steady and constant by endorsing the Arab peace initiative which has been ignored by Israel,” Deputy Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa said.

Israel and the Palestinians resumed negotiations in July after a three-year breakdown, and are under pressure from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to agree on a shared blueprint for peace. Netanyahu and Kerry are to meet in Davos tomorrow.

“I’m ready for a real, secure, genuine peace and I hope that President Abbas is ready, too, because if he is, I’m sure our American friends will only help,” Netanyahu said, referring to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu urged nations to enter into partnerships with Israel and invest in its technology as a way to promote peace.

Economic Peace

“The investment in the growth of the Israeli economy is good for our society and it’s also good for our neighbors, whether they realize it or not,” he said. While an economic peace is not a substitute for a political peace, “it could facilitate the other. I think this is a tremendous contribution to peace.”

Palestinians were cool to the idea.

“Mr. Netanyahu must understand that we have a political problem and that has to be solved first,” said Munib R. Masri, chairman of Ramallah-based Palestine Development and Investment Co., or Padico, who said he is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu in Davos tomorrow.

“Afterwards, we can talk about economic relations between two states,” said Masri, a co-founder of Breaking the Impasse, a group of Israeli and Palestinian business leaders seeking ways to make peace.

‘Irrelevant’ Idea

Samir Hulileh, Padico’s chief executive, said investment in Israel was “irrelevant.”

“It will help an economy that is our neighbor but it doesn’t help in solving the conflict and won’t help the Palestinian economy,” Hulileh said.

Technology has been a main driver of Israel’s economy, accounting for 44 percent of industrial exports in 2013. The Bank of Israel forecasts growth to remain steady this year at 3.3 percent.

The Palestinian economy is plagued by joblessness and dependence on foreign aid. The International Monetary Fund estimated Palestinian growth slowed to 4.5 percent last year from 5.9 percent in 2012, with unemployment at 24 percent.

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