PM’s backers on Right grapple with his moderate tone

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
September 8, 2010 05:32

We have hope in our hearts, but no illusions, says Ya’alon; God forbid he follows in Sharon’s footsteps, says Rivlin.

2 minute read.



VICE PREMIER Moshe Ya’alon

Moshe Ya’alon serious with Likud sign 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

A week after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu launched direct talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington, his supporters on the Right tried on Tuesday to explain what appeared to be a leftward shift by the premier.

Hawks who have supported Netanyahu from the outset of his political career were surprised by his dovish tone in his speeches in Washington.

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They were especially disturbed by his repeated references to the disputed territories as the “West Bank,” rather than by the biblical name of the area, Judea and Samaria.

One answer given by politicians close to the prime minister was that he was trying to maximize what Israel could receive in return if the creation of a Palestinian is inevitable. They said this was why he used his speech in the State Department to insist that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and end the conflict.

“We are once again outstretching a hand to our neighbors,” Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon, who is close to Netanyahu, told IDF soldiers from the Kfir Brigade at a ceremony Thursday night.

“We have hope in our hearts, but we don’t have illusions.

We desire peace but we have learned from past experiences.

“We have started a diplomatic process in another attempt to reach a diplomatic agreement with our neighbors.

We will not be able to advance without it being clear that the agreement would require the recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, guarantee an end to the conflict and each side’s claims, and ensure our security needs.”

Asked whether Netanyahu could follow in the footsteps of former prime minister Ariel Sharon and depart from the Likud’s path, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said “God forbid, but we must keep our eyes open just in case.”

Netanyahu’s hawkish brother- in-law, Hagi Ben-Artzi, said there were three possible explanations for Netanyahu’s shift: Either he collapsed under international pressure, he has been lying about his right-wing views for decades, or he is temporarily misleading the international community about his intentions on the Palestinian front in order to obtain its support for preventing the nuclearization of Iran.

“Bibi told the Likud Central Committee five years ago that whoever says yes to a Palestinian state says no a Jewish state and whoever says yes to a Jewish state says no to a Palestinian state,” Ben-Artzi recalled. “That’s what he has been saying for decades. I don’t see a reason to change such a fundamental, strategic position when what has happened over the past few years should only strengthen his position.

“That’s why I give these tactical explanations for why he is taking steps that are so mistaken.? Netanyahu’s spokesman declined to comment.


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