Ministers’ reactions to President Shimon Peres’s calls for the resumption of
peace talks Sunday showed differences of opinion within the government on how to
deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and border issues.
called for the immediate resumption of peace talks at the World Economic Forum
in Jordan, leading Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz to quip ahead of a
cabinet meeting: “I didn’t know that Peres became the government
“I think the government has its own spokespeople,” Steinitz
continued. “The position of the president of Israel is respected, but the
government makes policy decisions, and I think that every declaration of this
sort, certainly on the eve of negotiations, does not help Israel’s
Tourism Minister Uzi Landau called the pre-1967 lines “Auschwitz
borders” ahead of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
Landau’s comments, quoting a
well-known turn of phrase by former foreign minister Abba Eban from 1969, came
after US Secretary of State John Kerry visited the region and called for a
treaty based on pre-1967 lines with land swaps.
“What country would start
talks that aim to break down its ability to defend itself?” Landau asked. “I
hear people talking about a Palestinian state that must be
There’s a long list of Arab states that are falling apart –
Syria, Libya, Yemen.
The Palestinian Authority with which we once signed
an agreement split into Judea and Samaria and Gaza. Why would we work to create
a state with unclear chances of survival?” The Likud Beytenu minister called for
the government to be realistic and not “build policies on dreams that may never
“Whoever wants something serious [to come of peace talks]
should stay away from the idea of a Palestinian state,” he added.
and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett said that while he respects Peres, “most of
Israel opposes an agreement involving pre- 1967 lines and understands that it
will lead to Hamas terror reaching the coastal plain and the center of the
“The Israeli public, which experienced the results of Oslo –
thousands of deaths – knows with its healthy judgment that the way to peace and
security is through strength and not weakness and withdrawals,” Bennett
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz provided the
opposite view, saying “any diplomatic agreement will certainly be based on ’67
lines and land swaps.”
The Hatnua minister expressed hope that
declarations made by Peres – “who is in Jordan in coordination with the prime
minister,” Peretz pointed out – will drive a renewal of peace
“Everything happening around us [in the Middle East] requires us
to invest as much as possible in the peace process with the Palestinians,”
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) took issue with Steinitz’s
comments, saying “President Peres is the most faithful and believable
representative of the State of Israel.”
activities and appearances promote Israel’s interests at all times and in all
places. His contributions to our country’s international standing and to
preserving our legitimacy are massive and immeasurable,” Shai stated.
Labor MK criticized Steinitz, who is also international relations minister, for
criticizing the president for “promoting peace in one of the last opportunities
we have” while having a job that “needs to be clarified and defined.”
Eitan Cabel, also of Labor, praised Peres for saying that a two-state solution
is the only solution to the conflict.
“In light of right-wing attacks,
it’s important for me to back him and strengthen him in his righteous and
important battle to convince the country’s leadership to renew the peace
process,” Cabel said.
Cabel accused the government of dragging its feet
and missing an opportunity, despite the Arab League’s agreement to land
“President Peres is a lighthouse in the darkness and shows us what
leadership means. Instead of dealing with politics of fear, I call for the prime
minister to follow Peres’s path, show leadership and deal in politics of
opportunities. If he does so, I and the rest of the peace camp will give him all
the necessary support,” he said.