Moshe Yaalon 88 248.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received the backing of all of his ministers and almost his entire Likud faction on Monday for his plan that he announced Sunday for a demilitarized Palestinian state.
Far from rebelling against him, ministers that strongly oppose the creation of a Palestinian state supported Netanyahu and urged younger Likud MKs to do the same at Monday's Likud faction meeting in the Knesset.
"We have to unite behind the prime minister," Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin told the Likud faction, even as he criticized Netanyahu's plan.
Begin said he opposed a Palestinian state even if it was demilitarized, because historically such countries eventually became militarized. He rejected Netanyahu's comparison to the tiny demilitarized state of Andorra in Europe.
"I am against creating a sovereign Arab state in Judea and Samaria and Gaza even when there are conditions," Begin said. "I don't want Andorra or bandora ['tomato' in Arabic]. But I am staying in the government because I want to help the public."
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, the No. 2 man in Likud after Netanyahu, said the speech helped Israel reduce pressure from the United States. He said the Arab reaction to the speech was proof that Netanyahu had upheld key red lines on security issues, settlements and defensible borders.
Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon said Netanyahu had "exposed the true face of the Palestinians" and put an end to what he called a "stupid argument" about whether Israel supported a Palestinian state or something less than that.
"What was presented in the speech accurately reflects the Israeli consensus," Ya'alon told Army Radio. "All their [Palestinians'] reactions have been refusal and war. Now we no longer look like we are the ones who are refusing the [peace process]."
Ya'alon went on to say that he "can live in peace with a Palestinian state if created according to the conditions as laid out by Netanyahu" and stressed that Israel does not want to rule over the Palestinians, but that they are not willing to meet Israel's needs.
The only three Likud MKs who attacked Netanyahu in the faction meeting were Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely and Yariv Levin. Danon also attacked the ministers for "listening to their ministerial Volvos and not their consciences.
"The Likud platform opposes a Palestinian state," Danon told Netanyahu. "If you want to advance such a policy, you must pass it in the Likud institutions."
Hotovely said she did not believe until the last minute that Netanyahu would say the words Palestinian state so explicitly. She said she was deeply disappointed and thought that Netanyahu would add many more reservations than he did.
Levin said he did not believe the Palestinians would accept any of Netanyahu's conditions, but the prime minister was still wrong to set them. He called upon Netanyahu to start building in Judea and Samaria immediately to create facts on the ground.
"What Netanyahu said was right tactically, but strategically, for the long term, we shouldn't say what we don't believe in and contradict our principles," Levin said.
"I am afraid that what starts as a demilitarized Palestinian state with conditions will become a full Palestinian state over time and under pressure, and that is very dangerous," Levin said. "The way to prevent it is to continue building and expanding settlements. Where many thousands live, they can't expel Jews."