bibi w/ photo of begin 311 AJ.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged to show the courage of former prime minister Menachem Begin to advance the diplomatic process that is set to begin Wednesday, and he challenged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to follow the lead of Begin’s peace partner, slain Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.
Speaking at a special Likud faction meeting at Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center, held in honor of the 33rd anniversary of Begin’s 1977 election upheaval, Netanyahu said Begin had proved that the Left did not have a monopoly on peacemaking.
“They said that if the Likud came to power, there wouldn’t be peace, but the Likud brought peace with Egypt that has lasted,” Netanyahu said. “The threats haven’t gone, but the advantages of a lasting peace are clearer than ever.”
Netanyahu said lessons that could be learned from Begin included the need to insist on demilitarization of evacuated territory and other security steps, and the need for courage to make key diplomatic moves.
“Our government has proven our willingness to take difficult steps,” Netanyahu said. “For peace, we need leaders on the other side with the courage of Sadat and [the late Jordanian] King Hussein. If we find leaders willing to accept demilitarization and take other security steps, we can bring peace, too.”RELATED:PM's Office adds a spokesmanMitchell to meet Abbas, Netanyahu as proximity talks swing into gear
Likud ministers complained after the meeting that Netanyahu was twisting Begin’s legacy and using it as an excuse to make territorial concessions Begin would have opposed.
They pointed out that the quote atop a Begin poster placed near the table where they had sat read, “Better the challenges of peace than the pains of war,” rather than one of his more frequent quotes about the importance of keeping Judea and Samaria “by the force of right and not by the right of force.”
Begin Heritage Center director-general Herzl Makov urged Netanyahu and the MKs to be cognizant of the international battle over language and terminology. He said Begin had insisted on calling Judea and Samaria by their biblical names.
While Netanyahu was criticized, Defense Minister Ehud Barak enjoyed a relatively trouble-free meeting of his Labor faction at the Knesset. A faction spokesman said the MKs had been surprised to see that even though they disagreed on many key issues, they were united on the need to expedite the peace process.
“We are at an especially sensitive time in which we must build trust and get over our suspicions,” Barak told the faction. “Because a real breakthrough cannot be reached in proximity talks, we must get to direct negotiations on all the core issues of the conflict as soon as possible.”
On those issues, Barak said Israel needed a border based on security and demographic considerations that would leave a Jewish state with a huge Jewish majority on one side and a demilitarized Palestinian state that could sustain itself politically and economically on the other. He said the Palestinian refugee issue should be resolved only inside the Palestinian state, and Jerusalem’s fate would be decided in final-status talks in which an end to the conflict was declared.
Barak said adopting a diplomatic plan was essential to improving
Israel’s relations with the United States, which, he said, was in
Israel’s interests at a time when cooperation with the American military
was expanding. He noted that the US helped Israel with $3 billion in
aid, by providing parts for military equipment, and by vetoing UN
Security Council resolutions.
“The Americans are making a significant investment diplomatically and
politically on challenges that also interest us in the wider Middle
East, Afghanistan and Iraq,” Barak said. “The Americans are trying to
impose sanctions on Iran and stop North Korea and other countries.
That’s why they expect Israel, as a friend, to do its part for the
greater good by reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.”