A top Likud minister on Sunday downplayed the prospects of resuming peace talks with the Palestinians, ahead of an anticipated peace push during US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel later this month.
“In the current era, there is no point in talking about peace,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio, adding that “our neighbors have not yet abandoned the idea that the State of Israel as a Jewish state will disappear from the map.”
“There are those in the nationalist camp who had too many expectations from President Trump — I didn’t have such [expectations],” he added.
Erdan was apparently referring to growing concern in the Israeli right that Trump is intent on pursuing regional peace, while reinstating Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the center of the diplomatic stage. His comments came days after US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters during a daily press briefing in Washington that Trump will work toward a “just and lasting peace” between Israel and the Palestinians on his upcoming trip to the region.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to demand Washington move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize Israel’s capital.
In the past several days, the Jewish Home leader has stepped up his public criticism of Netanyahu, calling on him to be more assertive in his expectations of the US administration in regional affairs.
In a series of Hebrew posts to his Twitter feed, Bennett, a top coalition partner, wrote: “I call on the prime minister to make it clear that we expect the US government to move it embassy to Jerusalem, and to recognize the united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.”
“Moving the US embassy to the capital of Israel strengthens Israel, and strengthens to chances of a real peace because any agreement based on dividing Jerusalem is doomed to fail,” he continued. “Just like the embassies from countries around the world are in the US capital, Washington, so too do they need to be in Jerusalem, our capital for 3,000 years. This is our eternal capital and nothing else.”
Likud MK Yoav Kisch was quick to point out on his own Twitter feed that last week Netanyahu had publicly called for all foreign embassies, including the US, to relocate to Jerusalem.
The Likud party in a statement scorned Bennett’s comments as parroting Netanyahu.
“We congratulate Bennett for carefully memorizing the statements that Netanyahu puts out to the press, and then tweets them as though they are his demands,” the Likud statement said. “He has done that on many subjects and he is doing it also regarding his consistent demands from Netanyahu to move the US embassy.”
Despite campaign promises to do so, Trump is still reviewing whether to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday said the US president was carefully considering whether the move would help or harm peace prospects and was taking all parties’ positions into consideration.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of future state, while Israel is determined to keep the unified city as its capital. The issue of Jerusalem is one of thorniest issues in Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
On Saturday night, Bennett called for explicit withdrawal of Israeli support for the two-state solution and the presentation of a bold alternative plan.
“We cannot continue to run a ‘bunker’ policy, or Israel’s fate will be decided by others,” he said.
Referencing Netanyahu’s seminal 2009 address at Bar-Ilan University, in which the prime minister expressed support for two states, Bennett claimed the speech and its acknowledgement of Palestinian national aspirations had “brought upon us boycotts, terrorism and a serious demographic threat. It is now time to revoke it.”
The education minister charted two possible paths ahead. The first was “the continuation of the Bar-Ilan policy that champions the establishment of a second Palestine, in addition to the one in Gaza,” which he called “a failed messianic formula that has so far led to bloodshed, diplomatic deterioration and will bring about a demographic catastrophe.”
The second, he suggested, was for the Jewish state to present a new initiative, based on economic development, which would see Israel “enacting its sovereignty on the Israeli parts of Judea and Samaria,” the “stabilization of the Gaza Strip” and the reinforcement of Israel as a pillar of security, intelligence and economic (strength) in the region.”