NEW YORK – What would the world be like if there were to be peace tomorrow between Israelis and Palestinians, Tourism Minister Uzi Landau wondered aloud in his speech to the third Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on Sunday.
Will Iran not still extend its hand with weapons? Will Russia cease providing sponsorship in Syria? If the Port of Gaza were open, would Iranian ships not dock there with weapons? And how many refugees would come to Judea and Samaria, and eventually spill over into Israel? For Landau, the Palestinian state is not an option. “It will create a worse problem than it will solve,” he said.
“We can’t have Palestine run by Iran.” Landau emphasized.
“The purposes of the negotiations with the Palestinians should not be ‘Peace Now.’ That’s not real. What is real is interim, long-range agreements that eventually lead to peace.”
Landau told the audience that most Israelis want peace, but don’t believe it will happen. After all, “you have to base your policy on reality, not dreams.”
Only weeks away from the April 29th deadline for the current round of peace talks, the tone in Washington and Jerusalem has taken a turn for the pessimistic, following a unilateral move last week by the Palestinian leadership to accede to 15 UN treaties.
The Palestinians, in turn, said this was in response to Israel’s refusal to release the last round of Palestinian prisoners.
Amidst the latest diplomatic turmoil, Landau, in a wide-ranging speech filled with familiar right-wing rhetoric about Israel’s virtues and the worldwide campaign against it, took a stand on the one-state solution.
“I pray for the day they [the Palestinians] won’t be a failed entity,” he said, “we want to see an independent legal system, a free press, a different education system – which would teach future generations about peace...
[but] a growing number of forces in Israel do not believe in a viable Palestinian state.”
“In Israel, everyone wants peace, on the Left and the Right,” Landau said. “We do understand peace involves compromise. We have fought wars, now our kids are in the army. The debate in Israel is with respect to the road to peace. This is the only debate we have.”
The current negotiating partners are not ideal, he said. “Who’s our partner who wants to have peace and can’t deliver? We are told it is Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas],” Landau said.
“What’s his mandate? He was elected until 2010. He extends his presidency every year. And Hamas has already said they will not recognize any agreement.”
Is there apartheid in the Middle East? Of course there is, he said; in the Arab States and the Palestinian Authority.
“There is apartheid against women, minorities, Christians, Jews, against the right of the State of Israel to exist.”
Looking back on the Arab Spring and its aftermath, Landau dismissed the idea that the region was better off, and instead emphasized that the radical Islam that was taking root in the absence of a strong government could interfere in Europe and beyond.
“Israel’s stability and strength is critically important to the stability of countries still friendly to the West, like Jordan and Saudi Arabia,” he said. “The purpose of radical Islam is to turn to Europe and the US, not for coexistence, but to defeat them. Their grand strategy is to replace Judeo-Christian values with those of Sharia.”
Switching back to his capacity as tourism minister at the end of the speech, Landau said that last year, in 2013, Israel brought in a record high number of tourists.
“Please come and help me with the statistics for 2014!” he encouraged everyone.
“Come and see the true Israel.
We are a democracy, with respect for the rule of law, free press and an open economy, surrounded by the rough seas of terror, dictatorship, corruption and the oppression of women.”