Bennett says Peres wrong on Israeli willingness to capitulate

Mofaz slams right wing for criticizing president’s call to work toward two-state solution

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett criticized Shimon Peres’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Jordan Sunday, saying the president was wrong in believing most Israelis supported a peace agreement based on the 1967 borders.

In his address, Peres called on the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiation table and strive for peace, and said most Israelis sought this path. “You are our partner. And we are yours,” he told PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who was present at the conference.

Bennett said he respected the president, but that “contrary to his words, most of the Israeli public highly objects to retreating to the pre-1967 borders and understands it will import Hamas terror to the cities in the center of the country.”

“The Israeli public, which witnessed thousands of people killed as a result of the Oslo Accords, knows, with its healthy senses, that the way to peace and security is through strength, not weakness and capitulation.”

The Jewish Home’s Orit Strock also slammed Peres’s speech, saying he was the man “most worthy” of talking about the two-state solution.

“With a salesman like Peres, who’s responsible for the failure of Oslo, the [2005 Gaza] Disengagement and their victims, the chance of the sane public buying another illusion from the left is shrinking,” Strock said. “That’s a good thing.”

Kadima head Shaul Mofaz slammed the right wing politicians’ criticism of Peres, and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak out against them. It’s unthinkable that Netanyahu “was silent and backing this extreme behavior,” he said. The prime minister should “act responsibly and end this wild rampage.”

MK Eitan Cabel (Labor Party) congratulated Peres for “his brave statement,” in which he said a negotiated two-state solution was the only way to make peace in the region.

“In light of the attacks from the right, it’s important for me to back [the president] and strengthen him,” Cabel stated, according to Maariv.

Cabel said the Arab peace initiative, which Peres in Jordan called “a meaningful change and a strategic opportunity,” was “a precedent-setting opportunity to strive toward an agreement.” Israel’s political leadership, the legislator charged, was “missing the opportunity.”

The Labor Party, Cabel said, would provide Netanyahu with all the support needed if he chose “to follow the path of Peres” and work toward achieving peace.

Yitzhak Herzog (Labor) also backed Peres’s statements. “The basis [for an agreement] needs to be the pre-1967 borders with land swaps, and that needs to be said without blinking. There is, and will be, no other formula which provides a common denominator.”

When Minister of International Relations Yuval Steinitz attacked Peres, Herzog wrote on Facebook, he did so “without having a constructive alternative or original idea” to jump-start the peace process, “and we’ll pay the price.”

Earlier in the day, Steinitz said Peres might be president, but his opinions were not those of the government.

“I didn’t know Peres aspired to be the government’s spokesman,” he said in mock surprise ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “Any statement on the eve of negotiations of this sort — How shall we put this gently? — is unhelpful.”

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