The stalled peace talks with the Palestinians are not leading to peace, but are driven merely by concerns that without talks the Palestinians will advance their recognition efforts at the UN, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) said on Sunday morning.
“The negotiations ended because Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] ended them already two weeks ago when he announced he would never even discuss recognition of Israel as a Jewish state,” Bennett said in an interview with Israel Radio. “And then [Abbas] applied unilaterally to the UN,” Bennett added, a reference to the Palestinian Authority’s filing of 15 applications to international treaties last month.
The peace talks ground to a halt over the past two weeks as the Palestinian Authority refused to agree to a US framework agreement for further talks beyond the April 29 deadline for the negotiations, and Israel balked at releasing additional Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorism in late March in exchange for continued talks that were not likely to continue.
The collapse of the talks demonstrated that they were based on a wrong-headed “concept,” Bennett charged.
“Every time, just to continue the negotiations that aren’t leading anywhere, we have to release more murderers and more murderers. And each time they say, ‘if you don’t negotiate we’ll go to the UN.’ There’s a concept here, a concept that is pervasive here in Israel in recent years, which says, ‘We have to give up more and more, and not for peace but just so the Palestinian won’t go to the UN.’
“I disagree with this concept,” he added. “I say, if [Abbas] wants to go to the UN, I’ll buy him a ticket. And why? Because what he’ll find there are personal lawsuits for war crimes over his transfer of funds to Hamas which shoots rockets at us, and transfers of funds to the murderers of Israeli civilians.”
Israel’s chief peace negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, on Saturday accused Bennett’s Jewish Home colleague, Housing Minister Uri Ariel, of deliberately working to “torpedo” her peace efforts with the Palestinians, and intimated that the United States was over-involved in the process, while more time needed to be spent in direct Israeli-Palestinian contacts.
She also slammed Abbas for breaching their agreed negotiating framework, and sounded far from confident that the ruptured talks could be rescued.
Looking weary and at times angry in a Channel 2 interview, Livni said Ariel had “deliberately” reissued housing tenders for 708 new homes in east Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood last Tuesday, at a highly sensitive moment in the peace efforts, “in order to torpedo what I am doing along with the prime minister” to try to advance peacemaking.
Ariel “must be reined in,” she said.
While she indicated that she placed overwhelming blame on the PA for the current crisis in the talks, Livni said that “announcements of settlement building will always mean blame is placed on us” for the failure to achieve peace. “The whole world will blame us.”
Ariel responded Saturday that the justice minister had “failed miserably and is now looking for anyone to blame except herself.”
“I would suggest to minister Livni to adhere to the advice of the sages – silence is a measure of wisdom,” Ariel said in a statement.
Ariel said cabinet colleague Livni had been given “limitless authority to make peace, including the release of despicable murderers… Her sobs and moans over construction in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria are no more than crocodile tears of one who knew of (the plans) in advance, as did the Palestinians and the Americans.”
Bennett defended Ariel on Sunday. “I suggest we don’t always blame ourselves. Even when we release murderers, that’s not enough for the other side. Sometimes it’s okay to just be on your own side.”