Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, rejected Tuesday afternoon the prospect of a peace deal based on the 1967 lines, and called a potential Palestinian state “a demographic disaster for Israel.”
Bennett made his remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies.
He indicated that his right-wing party would bolt the coalition if the talks progressed under certain conditions. “We will not sit in a government that, due to international pressure, endangers the future of our children and divides our capital,” he said.
However, Bennett did not say that the Jewish Home would leave the government automatically over any agreement.
Bennett’s remarks came a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry left the region having yet to win agreement from the sides on a framework for continued negotiations toward a permanent deal. Some reports suggest he will return as soon as next week.
In his talk, Bennett laid out his party’s red lines for a peace deal. “We will never give up on a unified Jerusalem under Israeli — and only Israeli — sovereignty. We will not accept a Palestinian terror state, we will not accept an agreement based on the ’67 lines… We will not sit in a government that makes the easy and dangerous decisions.”
“Enough with the games,” he continued. “We will no longer play word games: ’67 lines’ means the division of Jerusalem; giving up the Mount of Olives where Menachem Begin, Rav Kook, and Eliezer Ben-Yehuda are buried; and giving up the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, and the Old City.”
Last week, Bennett reportedly held several one-on-one meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lay out red lines for a framework agreement with the Palestinians that, if breached, may prompt him to pull his party from the government, Channel 2 reported.
Bennett on Tuesday also criticized international pressure on the Jewish state to come to an agreement with the Palestinians, and urged Israeli leaders to be willing to reject conditions forced on them by outside parties.
“If we speak clearly,” he said, “they will listen to us. And if our friends push us to commit suicide, even if it comes from good intentions — then we will say, ‘No!’ We didn’t come here to be the world’s proving ground.”
The minister’s statements seemed to be an implicit dig at Kerry’s latest push to get both sides to sign on to the framework agreement. Kerry is asking Netanyahu and Abbas to start making tough, highly political decisions in hopes of narrowing differences and thus to agree on a framework that will outline a final peace pact.
Also Tuesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon denied that there was an actual framework agreement under discussion.
“We are not working on a framework agreement,” Ya’alon said during a visit to the IDF Central Command headquarters, “but on a framework for negotiations, for continuing the negotiations for a longer period.”
“Our interest is certainly to continue negotiations, and continue to act to
stabilize the situation, and our relationship with the Palestinians,” the defense minister continued.
According to senior government officials cited by Channel 10 Friday, Netanyahu intends to put the framework agreement to a vote in the cabinet, where it may find stiff opposition. He told Likud colleagues on Monday, however, that there was no framework deal yet, and that it wouldn’t be binding anyway.
Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.