Netanyahu on Trump peace deal: ‘The US knows our security interests’

Washington knows full well what Israel’s national and security interests are, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

November 19, 2017 11:40
3 minute read.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusa

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Washington knows full well what Israel’s national and security interests are, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, dismissing as premature media reports about details of the Trump administration’s plans for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“We heard a lot of speculation over the weekend [about the US peace plan],” Netanyahu said. “My attitude toward this plan will be determined according to national and security interests, and we’ve made those clear to our American friends.”

Netanyahu made his comments after Channel 2 reported that US President Donald Trump was working on a peace plan which would recognize a Palestinian state. Trump has yet to speak publicly about such a state, and the State Department has preferred using the term “conflict-ending peace agreement” rather than “two-state solution.”

Israeli politicians immediately reacted to reports of the plan, with Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) threatening that his party would leave the government coalition.

Bayit Yehudi opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, but its head, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, was quiet in the aftermath of the reports.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said Israel would work with the US on its initiative but that he knew nothing of the plan detailed in the media.

“In any event, it’s our understanding that, at this time, it’s not possible to have a solution like a Palestinian state,” Erdan said.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud) dismissed the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Jordan Valley.

“There is room for only one state between the [Mediterranean] sea and the Jordan [River], and there is no space there for a Palestinian state,” she said.

Regev’s views run counter to Netanyahu, who has spoken in support of two states for two people since 2009.

Netanyahu also spoke about reports of Trump’s peace plan when he met with ministers of his party on Sunday, in advance of the government meeting.

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin asked Netanyahu whether the Trump Administration knew of last month’s cabinet decision not to negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas.

Israel has said it will only hold such talks if Hamas recognizes Israel, stops terrorist activities, disarms, returns the Israeli citizens it is holding captive and gives up control of the Gaza Strip to Fatah.

Netanyahu assured Elkin that the US knew of Israel’s position.

“I will not agree to talk with the Palestinians as long as Hamas” is in the government, sources quoted Netanyahu as saying.

Separately, Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat warned that his organization would stop talking with the Trump Administration if it made good on its threat to close its office in Washington.

Since the start of his presidency this year, Trump has said he planned to focus on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though few details of what that would entail have been publicized.

Netanyahu has publicly said that Trump’s team is thinking “out of the box” and is bringing new ideas to a process that has been frozen since April 2014.

According to Channel 2, Trump’s plan would not be based on pre- 1967 borders, as the Obama administration’s efforts were. It also would not include the uprooting of Jews and Arabs but would include territorial swaps, according to the report, which also said Israel would maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley, something that has been critical for Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has spoken of how he sat with Trump and showed him a map of the area to emphasize the importance of this security measure.

The Jerusalem Post has reported that the administration has not set a timeline for the process.

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