There will be no peace agreement with the Palestinians, whether regional or bilateral, if Benjamin Netanyahu remains prime minister, former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief and Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Speaking as part of the Election Arena, an online video series in which candidates for the upcoming Knesset discuss the issues with Post reporters, Peri said Netanyahu misled the people of Israel when he said there would be a diplomatic horizon using a regional approach after Operation Protective Edge in August.
“He has been prime minister for nine years, including the last six, and the guy doesn’t move,” Peri said. “It’s a vital interest of Israel to come to an agreement.
Peri suggested convening a conference with moderate countries in the Middle East, singling out Egypt, Jordan, and Gulf states. The former Shin Bet chief said that the public is mistaken in its perception that Netanyahu is stronger on security than other candidates, such as Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid or Zionist Union leader Issac Herzog.
He said that if Herzog defeats Netanyahu, the people of Israel would be able to trust the new prime minister, because security experts like himself would advise him.
Peri challenged the notion that Netanyahu is the best candidate for ensuring that Israel’s security needs are met, saying Netanyahu is not “Mr. security” as he claims to be.
“Netanyahu is shown as Mr. Security, but people are not looking into the details,” he said. “People say ‘he has a lot of experience and he has been prime minister during several operations and we are not ready to try someone else.’ But that is a mistake, it’s a horrible mistake. Based on what I know, and I’ve know Mr. Netanyahu for the last 25 years, there is no doubt that another prime minister, and another government, and another cabinet would do it even better.”
Peri said that Netanyahu had misled the people by promising that Israel would parley its military gains in last summer’s Gaza war into a diplomatic achievement, which did not occur.
“The prime minister has to take care of the future of our children and our grandchildren, and Mr. Netanyahu is not doing it,” he asserted.
Peri endorsed the pre-1967 lines but said he opposes dividing Jerusalem, which was split before 1967. He said the Zionist Union is not anti-Zionist.
Asked if Netanyahu or Herzog were corrupt, he said the prime minister’s behavior had to be checked to determine whether it is criminal, while he is confident that Herzog is not corrupt. He downplayed what he called “Likud shouting” – accusations by Netanyahu’s party that the pro-peace organization One Voice was using illegal means to topple the prime minister.
“One voice is a group of good Jewish people from the US who want there to be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “It’s an accusation to [distract] from the behavior of Prime Minister Netanyahu.”