Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Monday said he believed peace with the Palestinians was possible under the new “very, very supportive” Donald Trump administration in Washington.
“We have an opportunity to create, together with the administration, the conditions for serious peace negotiations, by changing the basic approach of the international community,” Erdan told the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem.
“I believe that peace is possible. Every time Israel had a real partner for peace, we were willing to take far-reaching steps,” he said. “If we have a true partner for peace, and we have to check that we have a true partner, we can make a deal, as some like to say. You probably know who I’m talking about,” he added, alluding to Trump.
The Trump administration is “very, very supportive of Israel,” said Erdan, and “couldn’t be more different than the previous one.” At the same time, he expressed concern about “increasing polarization” in the United States, while stressing that Israel would not take a stance on the issue and urged bipartisan US support for the Jewish state.
The minister, who sits in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s high-level security cabinet, also urged a bolstered Israel-US alliance to combat terror and keep Iran in check.
“Israel and America must work together to ensure that the Iranian nuclear deal is fully enforced, if not canceled,” said Erdan. “It’s simply immoral to accept Iran as a legitimate state just because it has slowed down, for now, its nuclear program.”
In his address, the minister — who also holds the strategic affairs and diplomacy portfolios — described a “new form of terror” in which incitement is “spread directly to the smartphones of young Palestinians.”
Erdan also indicated that a wave of wildfires in November were the result of “incitement,” even as the handful of indictments against those accused of setting the fires did not detail any nationalistic or terror motives.
Incitement tells Palestinians to stab, shoot, or carry out car-ramming attacks on Israelis, and “tells them to set fire to Jewish towns if the weather conditions are right,” he said. Erdan was referring to a series of wildfires across the country that were initially attributed to Palestinian arsonists. Since the blazes, several indictments have been lodged against Palestinians, but without terror charges.
As part of a new approach to peace, the “Palestinians must see that incitement and unilateral steps will get them nowhere,” and that “continued rejectionism will come at a price,” he said.
Addressing the visiting US Jewish leaders, the minister also said Israel must be more “welcoming” to different streams of Judaism.
“Israel must be a place where Jews of every stripe and color feel comfortable at our holy sites,” said Erdan. Israel must “address the sensitive issues regarding religion and state,” he added.
He also said he hoped that compromise deal that would establish a mixed-gender prayer plaza at the Western Wall, which was put on ice due to opposition from the ruling Likud party’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, would be implemented.
Erdan also called on Israeli lawmakers to be more cautious in spearheading legislation that could irk the international community.
“It might be good if we, Israeli lawmakers, were a little more careful about our legislative initiatives and we took into consideration the way things look in the international arena,” he said, though he added it shouldn’t be the “only consideration.”