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 will feature tech millionaire Naftali Bennett as prime minister, replacing Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving head of government. The coalition includes an Islamist party, a first for Israel.
Bennett, who leads an ultra right-wing minority party, will serve as prime minister first, before centrist Lapid takes over after around two years.
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 told CNBC. Muslim-majority nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, and in May issued a joint statement condemning its “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’s trade relations with Indonesia 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.
As for U.S.-Israel relations, the ambassador said there is still “very strong support” from Washington. During the latest escalation in violence between Israel and Gaza, U.S. President Joe Biden faced pressure from some Democrat lawmakers to do more to restrain Israel and support the Palestinians. Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a resolution disapproving of the $735 million arms sale to Israel on May 20.
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