Economy Minister Naftali Bennett denounced Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday as “no different than [his predecessor] Yasser Arafat,” and that Israel would be better off annexing large swaths of the West Bank in order to safeguard its security needs.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Bennett assailed Abbas for “calling for a million martyrs to march on Jerusalem” as well as the Palestinian leader’s insistence that Israel accept the right of return of refugees who fled their homes in 1948.
The minister, who heads the pro-settler Bayit Yehudi party, also criticized American bridging proposals regarding the future of the Jordan Valley. According to Bennett, the suggestion that unmanned aerial vehicles, sensors, and sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment along Israel’s eastern border could adequately replace a physical IDF presence there to make way for a Palestinian state was “an unrealistic idea.”
In his interview with Israel Radio, Bennett reiterated his call for the annexation of Area C (the areas in the West Bank under Israeli civilian and military control) as well as other swaths of Judea and Samaria.
The Palestinians, Bennett told Israel Radio, could maintain autonomous rule in Areas A and B, but without any defense or security rights accorded to world governments.
Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, a key ally of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, told Israel Radio on Tuesday that the Palestinians were opposed to American efforts to draw up a draft paper detailing the progress made in the negotiations on the so-called “core issues” and which would serve as a basis for the continuation of talks.
Hanegbi told Israel Radio that he views Abbas’ entrenchment in the oft-stated positions regarding Jerusalem, the right of return, and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state paints him as “refusing to make peace.”
Abbas on Saturday reaffirmed his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
He also stressed that the Palestinians would not accept any solution that did not include east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
“We don’t love death, but we welcome martyrdom if it happens,” Abbas declared. “We will march to Jerusalem in the millions, as free people and heroes.”
Referring to Israeli demands to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas said, “This is a story that we have heard only in the last two years. We won’t recognize and accept the Jewishness of Israel. We have many excuses and reasons that prevent us from doing so.”
Abbas was speaking during a meeting in his office with dozens of east Jerusalem residents.Israel’s problem is that the Palestinians know more than the Israelis about history and geography, he said.
“We talk about what we know,” he said."We won’t accept the Jewishness of Israel. We are asking for the 1967 borders.”
Labor MK Eitan Cabel, meanwhile, said that while the Arab League and the Palestinians were “not exactly lovers of Zion,” Israel “ought to ask itself what is in its best interests.”
The lawmaker told Israel Radio that it appeared the government and the Palestinians were less preoccupied with making progress in talks and more concerned with deflecting blame to the other side once the negotiations are deemed a failure.