WASHINGTON – “Applying Israeli law to areas of Judea and Samaria that will remain part of Israel in any future peace deal will not set back the cause of peace; it will advance peace,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday night.
He addressed the virtual summit of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) in a video message, a few days before July 1, when Israel could legally move forward with its plan to annex parts of the West Bank.
Avi Berkowitz, the US special representative for international negotiations, is visiting Israel to meet with Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz to discuss a few possible scenarios.
Netanyahu called on the Palestinians to embrace US President Donald Trump’s vision for the Middle East.
“I encourage the Palestinians not to lose another opportunity, not to waste another century, trying to destroy Israel,” he said. “They should sit down and negotiate in good faith. They should be prepared to negotiate a historic compromise that can bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians alike. Israel is prepared for such negotiations; I am prepared for such negotiations.”
Netanyahu said he believes many Arab states in the region hope that Israel and the Palestinians enter such negotiations.
“I worked hard over the past decade to deepen ties with Israel’s Arab neighbors, many of whom don’t have formal peace agreements with Israel,” he said. “And as Israel moves forward, I will continue to work to strengthen those ties. I’m confident that together we can build a future of reconciliation and peace.”
Trump’s plan “doesn’t uproot a single Jew or Arab” from their homes,” Netanyahu said, adding that it “confronts a great lie head on – the lie that the Jewish people are foreign colonialists in our own ancestral homeland.”
“It makes clear that the Jewish people have a valid, legal, historical and moral claim to Judea and Samaria,” he said, “and it supports Israel’s sovereignty over the Jewish communities there.”
The sites in Judea and Samaria, Beit El and Shiloh, are an integral part of the historical Jewish homeland, Netanyahu said.
“After all, we’re called Jews because we’re the people of Judea,” he said. “But these areas are also an integral part of Christian identity. They’re a part of your heritage. They’re a part of our common civilization. And under Israeli sovereignty, our common heritage will be forever protected. In a region where Christians are on the run and live in fear, Christians in Israel are on the rise, and they live in freedom.”
PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, CUFI’s founder and chairman, said he prays “that the Palestinians choose peace” and that “they will choose the opportunity for prosperity that President Trump’s peace proposal provides for them.”
“We pray that those in the international community – in particular, the charlatans at the United Nations – will come to see that Israel is a nation to be commended and not constantly condemned,” he said. “We pray that the Trump peace proposal concerning Israel’s right to exercise its sovereignty in Judea and Samaria will go forward.”
Gantz also commended Trump’s peace vision and called on the Palestinians to come to the negotiation table. Trump is “a true and great friend of Israel,” and his plan is “visionary,” he said, adding that it “presents a historic window of opportunity at a critical juncture.”
“The Palestinians, regrettably, ignore this important call for dialogue,” Gantz said. “I advised them to reconsider and not miss another opportunity for positive change, for peace and for prosperity.”
Regarding the situation near Israel’s borders, both in the North and the South, he said: “Hezbollah has been building an Iranian-backed weapons arsenal and manufacturing precision-guided missiles that could reach any part of Israel. Lebanon will be held accountable should any of these missiles find a way to us. And I expect it to practice a state of responsibility, especially as it seeks international funding. Israel will not accept any excuses, and neither should anyone else.”
Hamas is provoking another escalation at the southern border, Gantz said, adding: “If Hamas tests us, they will pay a heavy price.”