Labor’s Gabbay: Trump-Kim summit signals peace with Palestinians possible

Opposition party leader hails US-North Korea rapprochement; right-wing ministers say it shows Iran’s nuclear program can be dismantled

Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting in Knesset on May 7, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting in Knesset on May 7, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Both Israel’s left and right drew inspiration from US President Donald Trump’s Tuesday summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, with the former saying it proved peace was possible between Israelis and Palestinians, and the latter expressing hope the Iranian nuclear program could be dismantled alongside the North Korean one.

The head of Israel’s center-left Labor Party took to Twitter to enthuse that “what happened tonight… can happen here in the Middle East too.”

“As with any negotiations, the way forward demands building trust (even when it appears impossible) and finding shared interests,” Avi Gabbay said in a Twitter post.

“It’s just a first step,” he added, “but leaders with the courage to initiate and bring [people] together can make all the difference. What happened tonight between the United States and North Korea can happen here in the Middle East, too, or anywhere. It sounds crazy until it happens.”

Trump and Kim held the unprecedented meeting in Singapore, after which they signed a joint document praised by both leaders.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, on January 30, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a Likud lawmaker, told South Korea’s Ambassador to Israel Gun-tae Lee at a Tuesday meeting that he hoped the process underway to denuclearize North Korea could be replicated with the Iranian regime.

“South Korea is threatened by North Korea, and Israel is threatened by [the prospect of] nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands,” Edelstein said. “We have to end that. I hope the agreement that Trump and Kim have signed will lead to a similar process in our region.”

Edelstein called the summit “an incredible step, not only for South Korea but for the whole world. This will be a long process, but the result could be revolutionary. A few years ago we couldn’t imagine that regimes of this sort will surrender their weapons and power. I hope this process, which begins today, will create a desire for similar processes in the Middle East.”

US President Donald Trump (2nd R) and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) sign documents as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) and the North Korean leader’s sister Kim Yo Jong (L) look on at a signing ceremony during the US-North Korea summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

He said peace on the Korean peninsula seemed a distant prospect for many years.

“When I visited Seoul a decade ago, I was amazed to discover that citizens there had real hope for normalized relations and even peace with their northern neighbors. Then it seemed to me a false hope, but it looks like I was wrong. I hope South Koreans obtain the peace they have yearned for these many years,” he said.

Another Likud lawmaker, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, also drew a parallel with Iran, praising the summit as “a mortal blow” to the Islamic Republic’s regional policies.

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi at the Knesset on July 9, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The first glimmerings of reconciliation between the United States and North Korea are a mortal blow to the radical axis led by Iran,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

“This is just the beginning of a long and exhausting negotiation process, full of crises and disagreements. But the bottom line, as of now, is welcome: Trump’s aggressive and uncompromising policy is proving itself. This is wonderful news for the free world, and for Israel.”

Earlier Tuesday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, the #2 lawmaker on the ruling party’s Knesset list, said the meeting with Kim was “a tremendous achievement” and said a similar meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would “not be terrible.”

“The very fact that the intent appears to be that the relationship and the talks will continue, and that it’s clear to us that President Trump doesn’t like to be a sucker, and that he understands that if there isn’t denuclearization, it will make him look ridiculous… this is a tremendous achievement that shows that a policy of resolve and deterrence appears to be much more effective when facing tyrants or empires or states with values different to our own,” Erdan said in an Army Radio interview Tuesday morning.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, February 19, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Erdan praised the meeting as a rebuke to critics and doubters of the controversial American president.

“The pundits should be doing some soul-searching today,” he said.

Asked about the idea of a similar Trump meeting with Rouhani, Erdan welcomed the idea.

“Given Trump’s values, both as expressed during the election and afterwards in his actions, it would not be terrible if such a meeting happens, as long as its goal and purpose is to dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons [program], and also, as Trump understands, that’s not enough, but [the goal must also be] to change the nature of the regime and its support for terror all over the world, certainly in the Middle East.”

Former Israeli prime minister and army chief Ehud Barak was less enthusiastic, but no less hopeful.

“An amazing event in Singapore,” he says in a Twitter post. “Who expected this four months ago? The balance thus far is worrying: a huge achievement for the young Korean dictator, an enormous gamble for President Trump. Fireworks in honor of the ‘great success’ tonight. The question: When and whether we will wake up with a ‘hangover.’ The consolation: It won’t be boring.”

The summit — unthinkable only months ago — comes after the two nuclear-armed foes appeared on the verge of conflict late last year as they slung personal insults and Kim conducted nuclear and missile tests.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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