WASHINGTON — Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told a crowd in Washington, DC, on Wednesday that US President Donald Trump’s peace push was ill-fated, while suggesting failed talks could spark a surge in terror attacks.
“I’m realistic,” she said at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank located just a few blocks from the White House. “People who are really involved with what’s going on in the Middle East understand that the gaps between the Palestinians and the Israelis are much too big.”
Calling for an “economic deal,” Shaked voiced her skepticism about Trump’s attempt to broker a final-status peace agreement that would end the decades-old conflict, what he has repeatedly referred to as “the ultimate deal.”
A secular woman from Tel Aviv, Shaked is a member of the right-wing, religious Zionist, pro-settler Jewish Home party led by Naftali Bennett.
She warned her audience Wednesday about potential ramifications of an unsuccessful peace initiative — suggesting that Trump’s latest efforts could result in an uptick in Palestinian terrorism.
“We need also to remember that every time that there was a peace process and it failed, after that there was a terror wave,” she said. “If you ask me, I think that if the president is talking about a deal, the economic deal can be much better.”
Shortly after the Oslo peace process collapsed in 2000, the Second Intifada, a five-year period of recurrent Palestinian suicide bombings, began.
And three months after former US president Barack Obama and then-secretary of state John Kerry’s nine-month peace negotiations fell apart in April 2014, an Israel-Hamas war broke out in the Gaza Strip.
While Shaked did not detail her precise vision for an “economic deal,” she said it would include initiatives that would “boost the Palestinian Authority economy” and invest in infrastructure projects and industrial zones.
The former-software-engineer-turned-politician also cited Trump’s public appearance with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last week as evidence of Palestinian intransigence.
“The case of the salaries to terrorists is one thing,” she said. “The fact that Abu Mazen [Abbas] was here and he didn’t recognize … Israel as a Jewish state. He even didn’t say two states for two people. We, of course, will never give up on Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people. We are not going to split Jerusalem.”
During a joint press conference at the White House, Abbas listed his conditions for reaching a deal, which included returning to the 1967 lines and establishing a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
“Our strategic option, our strategic choice, is to bring about peace based on the vision of the two-state [solution], a Palestinian state with its capital of East Jerusalem that lives in peace and stability with the State of Israel, based on the borders of 1967,” Abbas said.
Trump, for his part, welcomed the Palestinian leader to Washington with open arms, and conveyed optimism regarding their ability to strike an accord.
“It’s something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years,” he told Abbas. “We need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing. We believe you’re willing. And if you are willing, we are going to make a deal.”
Unconvinced, Shaked stuck with her assertion that Trump stood a better chance if he focused on the economic plight of Palestinians rather than a solution to the conflict.
“I think President Trump has a huge opportunity to have an economic deal,” she said. “I think he is the right person to do it.”
On Thursday, Shaked will meet with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a number of senators on Capitol Hill.