“The good news… is that there is a dramatic change taking place in the Arab world,” Netanyahu said at a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
“And that change is that many of the Arab countries no longer see Israel as their enemy,” he added.
The Arabic- and Hebrew-language press has recently reported on a number of behind-the-scenes meetings between Israeli officials and representatives of Arab countries.
Netanyahu also challenged the longstanding dictum that a breakthrough between Israel and the Palestinians would lead to a wider peace with the Arab world.
“Peace is going to be achieved through a reverse path,” he said.
“Not that the Palestinians will bring peace with the broader Arab world, but a broader rapprochement with the Arab world will bring peace with the Palestinians,” he added.
Netanyahu went on to hold Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for failing to achieve peace with Israel by refusing to accept the Jewish state’s borders.
“The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state remains the core of the conflict,” he said.
“It is wrong to think that the conflict… is rooted in the [issue of Israeli] settlements,” he added.
On Tuesday, Abbas said at a meeting with his Italian counterpart in Bethlehem that peace could only be achieved if Israel withdrew from occupied Palestinian land in line with the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.
“Peace based on a two-state solution in accordance with international law and the Arab Peace Initiative is our strategic goal,” Abbas said.
“The key to peace is ending the Israeli occupation and the injustice faced by our people so that the two states — Palestine and Israel — can enjoy security,” he said.