Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at Ben Gurion airport on May 23, 2017.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Despite the warmth exhibited by US President Donald Trump during his visit last week, Israel does not have a “blank check” from the Americans, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.
Netanyahu’s comments came at the weekly Likud faction meeting, against the background of comments from Likud MKs calling for Netanyahu to be more outspoken in opposition to a two-state solution.
The prime minister told the MKs that while Israel is a sovereign country that can make many decisions, and there is a great deal of understanding in Washington for many of Israel’s key positions, the country must proceed in the diplomatic process “wisely and responsibly,” and those claiming that Israel has a “diplomatic blank check” are mistaken.
Netanyahu also said that Trump is determined to reach an agreement. In a speech in Italy before returning home from his first overseas trip as president, Trump said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “assured me that he is willing to reach for peace with Israel in good faith – and I believe him.” Likewise, he said, Netanyahu “assured me that he, too, was ready to reach for peace – he is a friend of mine, and he means it.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely was quoted as saying at the meeting that this does not mean Israel has to agree to any agreement, and that Israel needs to put forward a diplomatic alternative to the Oslo Accords.
Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official on Monday denied a report about a confrontation between Trump and Abbas during the American leader’s visit to Bethlehem last week.
“It is a total fabrication and a lie,” Ahmad Majdalani, a confidant of Abbas, told The Jerusalem Post.
Citing an American source, Channel 2 reported on Sunday that Trump shouted at Abbas in Bethlehem, saying he was fooling him.
“You deceived me in Washington,” Trump reportedly told Abbas, alluding to a meeting they had in the US capital earlier in May. “You spoke to me about peace, but the Israelis showed me that you personally have a hand in incitement.”
Majdalani added that all the meetings between Abbas and Trump have been positive.
“The talks we have had with the American administration have been based on mutual respect,” Majdalani said.
“They have been positive, and we are feeling a major development in the American administration’s position.”
Nabil Sha’ath, Abbas’s foreign- policy adviser, told the Post that while he is aware that the issue of incitement was raised in the Bethlehem meeting, he has no knowledge of Trump shouting at the PA president.
“There was a question that Mr. Trump had about something that Mr. Netanyahu told him,” Sha’ath said. “Our president explained the matter very clearly to Mr. Trump, and the meeting went on quite productively.”
Sha’ath said his account of the meeting is based on a conversation he had with Abbas.
Israel has long accused the Palestinian leadership of incitement by praising violent attackers. Netanyahu told his cabinet meeting on May 4 that the Palestinians “name their schools after mass murderers of Israelis.”
A number of facilities and institutions have been named after Palestinians who carried out violent attacks against Israel. Most recently, a women’s center in the village of Burka near Nablus was named after Dalal Mughrabi, who killed 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children.
Abbas has said that incitement exists in Israel and the Palestinian territories and called for the revival of a tripartite Israeli-Palestinian- American anti-incitement committee to deal with the issue.
“Incitement can lead to violence, and we must end it in every place,” Abbas told a group of Israelis visiting the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah on November 22. “We must revive the tripartite committee to deal with this issue.”
The anti-incitement committee was created following the signing of the Wye River Memorandum in 1998, but has not met since the outbreak of the second intifada.
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