This government will not negotiate an agreement with the Palestinians, but the possibility for future talks must be left open, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Monday.
“We will not promote diplomatic agreements, but we must keep in contact so that a diplomatic horizon will be possible to ensure our security, our international strength and the continuation of the Zionist vision,” he said in the Knesset.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his Yamina Party oppose a Palestinian state, as does Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope Party, but the other parties in the coalition, including Gantz’s Blue and White, support one under various conditions. The coalition has a narrow majority, and it cannot afford to lose the support of any of its parties, or an election likely would be triggered.
In response to a no-confidence motion regarding his meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in recent months, Gantz said talking to the PA is in the interest of Israel’s security.
“Whether we want it or not, the PA is the legitimate and recognized leadership of our neighbors, and over the years, every Israeli government since [the PA has] existed has had coordination and cooperation with it, along with deep and difficult disagreements,” he said. “At the same time, unlike those who led these processes under the table, I chose to manage them openly in Ramallah and in Rosh Ha’ayin,” where the defense minister resides.
The Palestinians are aware that they must work harder to stymie terrorism, stop payments to terrorists and their families and put an end to attempts to put Israelis on trial for war crimes to have better relations with the Jewish state and to move forward, he added.
Gantz said he is coordinating with the Palestinians and strengthening their economy, while making demands in return.
“The weakening of the PA over the years and the hiding of relations [with Israel] strengthened Hamas, hurt Israel’s security and failed when examining the results,” he said.
Good relations with the Palestinians “are critical for our security, for the future of our children and how our state will look,” he added.
Gantz also spoke in favor of the Abraham Accords, for which he took partial credit, saying he had prevented former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu from annexing parts of Judea and Samaria.
Gantz met at his home with Abbas in late December, following a previous meeting in Ramallah. Last week, Lapid met at his home in Tel Aviv with PA Civil Affairs head Hussein al-Sheikh.
Israel is not a partner for peace, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Monday, after Bennett voiced his opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state in an interview last Friday with The Jerusalem Post.
The PA leadership said Bennett’s remarks exposed his “extremist and anti-peace ideology.”
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.