Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinian Authority to enter negotiations based on US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, saying he and his government were prepared for talks, days before he is expected to annex parts of the West Bank with Washington’s approval.
The Palestinian leadership has rejected the entire Trump peace plan, calling it biased in Israel’s favor, and has cut all its ties with the White House as well as much of its security coordination with Israel.
“I encourage the Palestinians not to lose another opportunity, not to waste another century trying to destroy Israel,” Netanyahu said in a recorded video message aired at a Christians United for Israel conference Sunday held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“They should embrace Trump’s vision,” Netanyahu said. “They should sit down and negotiate in good faith. They should be prepared to negotiate a historic compromise that can bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians alike.
“Israel is prepared for such negotiations. I am prepared for such a negotiation. And I’m sure that many Arab states in our region are hoping we enter such negotiations with the Palestinians,” he said, adding that he had cultivated friendships with Arab states that don’t have a formal peace agreement with the Jewish state.
Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz made a similar point in his own video message, advising the Palestinians to reconsider their refusal to negotiate “and not miss another opportunity for positive change, for peace and for prosperity.”
Netanyahu touted the Trump peace plan in his message, saying it “is anchored in a foundation of truth” and “makes clear that the Jewish people have a valid, legal, historic and moral claim to Judea and Samaria, and it supports Israel’s sovereignty over the Jewish communities there,” using the biblical term for the West Bank.
“After all, we are called Jews because we are the people of Judea,” he said.
“Applying Israeli law to areas of Judea and Samaria that will remain part of Israel in any future peace deal will not set back the cause of peace; it will advance peace,” Netanyahu said, in a possible hint that the annexation, instead of including all settlements and the Jordan Valley, will be limited to just the central settlement blocs that many see becoming part of Israel in any future peace deal.
“My friends, the president’s vision finally puts to rest the two-state illusion,” Netanyahu added. “It calls for a realistic two-state solution. And in this realistic solution, Israel, and Israel alone, has control of all security matters on the ground and on the air, west of the Jordan River. This is good for Israel, it’s good for the Palestinians, it’s good for peace.”
Arguing that the 1967 borders from before Israel took control of the West Bank are “indefensible,” Netanyahu hailed the Trump plan for keeping all of Jerusalem in Israel’s hands and for not including the evacuation of settlements.
“The plan doesn’t include the uprooting of tens of thousands of Jews from their homes; it doesn’t uproot a single Jew or Arab. Enough with ethnic cleansing,” he said, employing a term that earned him condemnation from the UN and many countries when he used it in 2016.
Netanyahu also praised Trump for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, calling on other countries to join the US in sanctioning the Islamic Republic.
That call was echoed by President Reuven Rivlin, who also delivered a video message.
Rivlin urged tough measures against anti-Semitism coming “both from the far-right and from the far-left — BDS,” referring to the movement calling for boycotting Israel.
Under a coalition deal between Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz signed last month, the government can pursue annexation of all 132 settlements and the Jordan Valley — the 30 percent of the West Bank allocated to Israel under the Trump administration’s peace plan — from July 1. The plan also conditionally provides for a Palestinian state on the remaining 70% of the territory.
There have been reports that Israel is considering a more limited annexation move to apply only to settlement areas close to Jerusalem. Ynet reported that one idea discussed is adding the city of Ma’ale Adumim to the Jerusalem municipal area.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi has said that Israel will not annex the Jordan Valley, according to a television report last Wednesday.
The prospect of unilateral annexation has been condemned internationally, with European and Arab states, as well as senior members of the US Democratic Party, warning the Israeli government against the move.
Jordan has threatened to abrogate or downgrade its 1994 peace treaty with Israel if the annexation goes ahead and King Abdullah II is said to be so infuriated at Israel’s intentions that he has stopped accepting calls from Netanyahu.
The Times of Israel reported earlier this month that the White House was “highly unlikely” to green-light Israeli annexation by July 1 and that more work was needed on the mapping of the territories.
Concerned about the collateral damage that could follow from allowing Israel to move ahead with its plan, Washington is reportedly considering backing the annexation of only a handful of settlements close to Jerusalem.
“Ultimately, as the team approaches this thought of annexation, the main thing going through our heads is, ‘Does this in fact help advance the cause of peace?’ And therefore that is what will help drive a lot of the discussion,” a senior Trump administration official told Reuters in a report last week.