JERUSALEM 

A top Israeli intelligence official said on Monday that Israel’s normalization with the Arab countries must not be conditioned with advancing negotiations with the Palestinians.

“The negotiations with the Palestinians must not be a condition or obstacle in front of continuing contacts for normalization with the region’s states,” Mossad chief Yossi Cohen told the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation.

Israeli media reported earlier that Cohen was assigned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to conduct secret contacts with heads of Arab states.

Israel signed recently two normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.

“Agreements with the Gulf states grant us an important strategic depth against the axis of evil managed by Iran,” Cohen said. “Israel hopes that other countries will establish official contacts, we are in contact with several states in the region and outside in the Middle East and Africa.”

On Sept. 15, Bahrain and the UAE agreed to establish full diplomatic, cultural, and commercial relations with Israel after signing controversial agreements at the White House.

The deals have drawn widespread condemnation from Palestinians, who say the accords ignore their rights and do not serve the Palestinian cause.

* Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara

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