New Hope rejects Palestinian statehood, has a goal of annexing West Bank settlements, but would uphold Israel’s pledge to suspend such sovereignty, party leader Gideon Sa’ar told the Washington Institute.
“I would say I support the maximum autonomy for the Palestinians to rule their lives, with the minimum ability to harm the state of Israel,” Sa’ar said. “That would be the formula”
He explained this right-wing position in English to the institute’s CEO, Robert Satloff, during a video interview published late Wednesday. The dismissal of Palestinian statehood, he said, was in part the consequence of failed peace attempts at Camp David, the Obama administration’s initiatives, and the 2005 Gaza withdrawal.
It is not clear that such a Palestinian state is even viable, Sa’ar said, particularly given the division between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in Judea and Samaria.
Sa’ar alluded vaguely to a regional component on a solution of autonomy for the Palestinians that included Jordan and Egypt, but did not clarify what he meant.
Such a conversation should also take place with the US, he said, adding that while the Biden administration supports the two-state solution, it is also much more realistic as to what it can achieve on the ground in the short term.
Sa’ar emphasized his support for the application of sovereignty over West Bank settlements, stating that this “is something that continues to be an Israeli objective.” He clarified that only Israeli areas should be annexed, and that areas populated by Palestinians in the West Bank would not be part of sovereign Israel.
Still, he said, he respected the commitment Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had made to the United States to suspend that annexation in exchange for the Abraham Accords under whose rubric Israel entered into four normalization agreements with Arab states.
“I would like to promote to work on adding more states to the normalization process with Israel,” Sa’ar said, adding that the old “Arab-Israeli conflict” is on the way to reducing itself to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The region wants to move forward with cooperative ties with Israel, and this will also be an important tool to achieving peace with the Palestinians, he said.
Sa’ar also spoke of the importance of integrating Israeli-Arabs citizens and ultra-Orthodox citizens into Israeli life by improving options for them.
National unity is extremely important, Sa’ar emphasized, explaining that COVID-19 provides an option to unite diverse parties and segments of the population, all of whom are impacted by issues of health and the impact on the economy and education.
These are all issues that are not in dispute and as a result they can be used to bridge gaps, he said.
Sa’ar struck a harsher note when he spoke on Thursday in a closed-door meeting with ambassadors from the 27 European Union nations. He called on the European Union to halt its unilateral actions in support of the Palestinians in Area C.
“Israelis are frustrated that the EU’s position is very one-sided when it comes to issues that are very important to Israel, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Sa’ar said in the closed door forum. Some of his remarks were released after the conversation.
Sa’ar has been persistently outspoken against the support by the EU and many of its member states for illegal Palestinian building in Area C.
Sa’ar also took issue with European funding for NGOs perceived to be anti-Israel. He spoke specially about the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, which recently declared Israel to be an apartheid state.
“I believe the efforts [the] EU undertakes, which seek to unilaterally prejudge the outcome of future negotiations, do not serve the interests of the EU to promote stability and peace in the region,” Sa’ar said. “I believe it weakens the EU’s influence.”
He noted the deep ties between Israel and the EU, particularly in the matter of trade and cooperative agreements that give Israel a special status.
It was important, he said, to ease tension with the EU, so that “we can form a new and better, and more sincere, dialogue between Israel and the EU.”