AFP — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “no intention” of discussing peace with the Palestinians, opposition leader Yair Lapid said ahead of the signing of the landmark Israeli deal with the UAE.
US President Donald Trump will host a ceremony on Tuesday at which Netanyahu will sign a full treaty with the United Arab Emirates and a declaration of peace with Bahrain, the first accords Israel has agreed with Arab states since Jordan in 1994.
While centrist leader Lapid welcomed the Gulf deals, he argued Israel should also resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
“The current government is saying we have achieved agreements with moderate Sunni countries without paying the price of negotiating with the Palestinians. What I say is it’s not a price. It’s an Israeli interest,” he told AFP at his parliamentary office.
The Palestinian leadership has slammed the Gulf deals for going against decades of consensus among Arab states that a Palestinian peace deal is a prerequisite for ties with Israel.
Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid-Telem alliance, criticized the Palestinians for waiting for the Arab world and the international community to “do the job for them.”
“They need to be proactive instead of victimizing themselves forever, instead of complaining all the time,” said Lapid, arguing the Palestinians’ fundamental demands were unrealistic.
Palestinians have called for an independent state based on the lines that existed before the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
They have also called for refugees displaced since the creation of Israel in 1948 to be allowed to return along with their descendants. Israel says that the influx of millions under the so-called “right of return” would bring an end to the the country as a Jewish state.
“This is not going to work,” said Lapid, a clean-cut former TV journalist. “They need to go back to the table. We need to go back to the table.”
The last round of peace talks collapsed in 2014 and the Palestinians have rejected initiatives by the Trump administration for their pro-Israeli bias.
Lapid’s office is decorated with photos of him with world leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and US presidential candidate Joe Biden, while Trump is notably absent.
“I think we need to move forward and discuss this with the Palestinians under the two-state solution, and I don’t think this government is going to do anything about it,” he said.
Lapid accused Netanyahu’s government of having “no intention of discussing anything with the Palestinians” as many of the premier’s right-wing voters are against the creation of a Palestinian state.
He also pointed to the legal woes of the prime minister, who is currently on trial for corruption, as a further reason peace talks were off the agenda.
A former finance minister under Netanyahu, Lapid stood firm in opposition to the veteran premier following March elections.
His former allies Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi defected to join Netanyahu’s government and now serve as defense and foreign ministers respectively.