MK OFIR AKUNIS looks out over the Old City of Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Many cabinet members will vote against an American peace initiative based on a two-state solution, Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis warned ahead of his trip to the US next week.
Akunis said he expects US President Donald Trump’s administration to present a diplomatic plan for Israel and the Palestinians in the coming months that will push for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
“With all of my appreciation for the Trump administration, which I don’t hide,” Akunis said, “I can’t live with a document that talks about two states, and I will vote against it. I have a clear ideological stance... Many ministers agree.”
Still, Akunis added that he’s “happy the Trump administration hasn’t said [they want two states] since [US president Barack] Obama finished his job.”
The Likud minister’s weeklong US trip is not a diplomatic one; he will first head to the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in Los Angeles and then to major tech companies in the San Francisco area.
Still, Akunis said he thinks US Jews are concerned about diplomatic issues related to Israel and he plans to make his views heard.
“We want peace and are ready to negotiate, but not based on two states. I cannot accept a paper like that from the Americans,” he said.
The main message Akunis hopes to relay at the General Assembly is that US and Israeli Jews are “one nation,” despite disputes this past year over the acceptance of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism in several areas.
“I have a lot of appreciation for tradition, but I believe in live and let live,” Akunis said.
According to Akunis, “The agreements between Jewish people in the US and Israel are greater than the disagreements.”
And the disagreements that exist are fine and normal, he added.
The minister also disputed the common wisdom that young American Jews feel less connected to Israel.
“Since I became a deputy minister [in 2013], I have met with Masa and Birthright groups, and even though people say the young people’s connection is weaker, I totally disagree,” he said.
In Northern California, Akunis has meetings planned with NASA, Amazon and Facebook, in which he hopes to discuss ways to cut red tape and make it easier for them to do business in Israel.
“We want to support tech companies, and they want to come to Israel. I, as a minister, have problems with the bureaucracy here, so I understand that it’s even worse for them,” he said.