Israeli ambassador on foreign policy as leadership looks set to change

A new coalition may soon take power in Israel, but that doesn’t signal a change in the country’s foreign policies, according to Israel’s ambassador to Singapore.

“As far as foreign policy is concerned, we’re about to see a continuation of previous policies of the government,” Sagi Karni told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Wednesday.

That means Israel will still want to maintain and expand the Abraham Accords, engage with the rest of the world, and “see a change” in Gaza, he said.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, will be voting on a new government on Sunday. If successful, the coalition led by opposition party leader Yair Lapid and tech millionaire Naftali Bennett will be sworn in, unseating Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The coalition also includes an Islamist party.

Bennett, who leads an ultra right-wing minority party, will serve as prime minister first, before centrist Lapid takes over after around two years.

Foreign relations

A Lapid-Bennett government is unlikely to change Israel’s relations with other countries, Karni said.

“Our policy has been very clear that we are open and we look to have normal and good relations with all countries, including what you alluded to, the Muslim countries here in Southeast Asia,” he said.

Muslim-majority nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, and in May issued a joint statement condemning Tel Aviv’s “violations and aggressions” against the Palestinians.

Karni said Israel needs to protect its citizens, but that it has “no quarrel” with any countries in Southeast Asia.

We would like to expand the circle of peace also, to the Muslim countries here in the region.

Sagi Karni

Israel’s ambassador to Singapore

“We would like to expand the circle of peace also, to the Muslim countries here in the region,” he said.

“But we cannot force it upon them,” he added. “It’s up to them to join, and they know that we’re interested, but they also have their own internal political considerations.”

Still, he noted that Israel has trade relations with Indonesia that began decades ago.

“Things can get, of course, much better, but it’s … up to them. We are ready to move as soon as they’re ready,” he said.

US-Israel ties

Leader of the Israeli Yemina party, Naftali Bennett, delivers a political statement at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem, on May 30, 2021.

YONATAN SINDEL | AFP | Getty Images

But following a ceasefire, Secretary of State Antony Blinken headed to the Middle East for a visit that involved meetings with Israeli leaders about “our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security,” Biden said in a statement.

“I think there is very strong support on behalf of the U.S. towards Israel,” Karni said. “Support for Israel’s right of self-defense.”

He added that developments in the Middle East, such as the Abraham Accords — a series of agreements between Israel and some Arab League countries — were a “very positive development” that brings stability in the region and serves the interests of the U.S.

“I don’t see much of a change with the new Israeli cabinet coming to power next week,” he said.

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