Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday Israel has no intention of leaving Israelis to live under Palestinian rule as part of a peace deal.
Liberman’s statement was at odds with a recent leak from officials in the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, since the Times of Israel reported on Sunday, according to PMO officials, that Netanyahu intends to insist settlers be given the option of staying in place under Palestinian rule if they so choose.
During a visit to Katzrin in the Golan Heights, Liberman commented on the public conflict in recent days between Netanyahu and Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, and said Bennett was right to apologize to the premier. “One may disagree with the prime minister, and one may argue with him, but one cannot lash out at the prime minister,” Liberman said.
The spat began when an official close to Netanyahu said the prime minister believed West Bank settlers must be given the option to remain in their homes under Palestinian rule under any future peace accord. “His consistent position has been that those settlements that will be on the Palestinian side of the border should not be uprooted,” the official told The Times of Israel. “Just as Israel has an Arab minority, the prime minister doesn’t see why Palestine can’t have a Jewish minority. The Jews living on their side should have a choice whether they want to stay or not.”
In a series of statements made in the days following the PMO leak, Bennett said the proposal “reflects a loss of a moral compass,” and that “our forefathers and our descendants will not forgive an Israeli leader who gives up our country and divides our capital.” He also criticized the government’s handling of peace talks, suggesting that the government’s growing fear of boycotts “is what will bring on the boycott. This is no way to handle negotiations, running frightened between the capitals of the world.”
Liberman said Bennett was right to apologize for statements that were out of place.
“What’s more important is that there was no intention to leave Israeli settlers under Palestinian rule,” Liberman continued. “I don’t know how or why [things were] interpreted this way… There wasn’t, there isn’t and there won’t be an intention to leave any Israeli settler under Palestinian sovereignty.”
Liberman also addressed the status of the contested Golan Heights, saying any regional peace agreement should also recognize the Golan as sovereign Israeli territory.
“We must reach an understanding with the international community, and particularly the US, that the Golan Heights must be an integral and inseparable part of the State of Israel,” he said.
Syria claims the Golan Heights for itself, though the civil war raging there has silenced any discussion of Israel giving up the territory. Israel captured the Golan in 1967, and subsequently extended Israeli law to the area.