Deputy defense minister pressures PM to cancel talks over Passover murder

Israelis, Palestinians scheduled to meet in effort to extend April 29 deadline.

Netanyahu and Abbas (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu and Abbas
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The terrorist attack which left an Israeli man dead on the eve of Passover has re-ignited calls from within Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party to take a tougher approach to peace talks with the Palestinians.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon told Israel Radio on Wednesday that Netanyahu should order Israeli negotiators not to meet with their Palestinian counterparts – as they are scheduled to do later on in the evening – until the Palestinian Authority officially issues a condemnation of the killing.
“Palestinian incitement continues, so there’s no place for more talks,” Danon said. “We need to stop folding and begging [before the Palestinians].”
The deputy defense minister, who is leading the hawkish opposition to Netanyahu from within the ruling Likud faction, repeated his threat to tender his resignation in the event that Israel frees additional Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorist acts.
Danon criticized the United States for its “double standard” in pressuring Israel to free Palestinian terrorists.
Israeli-Palestinian contacts to extend negotiations past their April 29 deadline continue, despite Monday evening’s terrorist attack that killed a police officer on his way with his family to a Seder in Kiryat Arba.
The negotiations were to continue on Wednesday, even as Netanyahu held the Palestinian Authority responsible for the murder.
“This reprehensible murder of a man who was traveling with his family to a meal for the Festival of Freedom is the result of the incitement for which the Palestinian Authority is responsible,” Netanyahu said.
“The Palestinian Authority continues to constantly broadcast – in its official media – programs that incite against the existence of the State of Israel,” he added.
“Last night this incitement was translated into the murder of a father who was traveling with his family to celebrate the first night of Passover.
The incitement of the Palestinian Authority continues in that it has yet to see fit to condemn this abominable and reprehensible act.”
One government official, who refrained from speculating on how the murder in the South Hebron Hills would affect Israel’s willingness to release Palestinian terrorists in order to get the Palestinians to extend the talks, said “there can be no peace without security,” and that the attack “demonstrates that we have to have iron clad security arrangements in any agreement.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, at her daily briefing in Washington on Tuesday, condemned the attack and said the US supports “Israel’s efforts to bring those responsible to justice.”
At the same time, she urged “all parties to exercise restraint and avoid any action that would raise tensions.”
Psaki said Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would meet on Wednesday to discuss extending the negotiations. This will be the second meeting in four days between the sides without the participation of American envoy Martin Indyk, who is in the US. The two sides met for some three hours late on Sunday night.
“There are naturally a range of issues being discussed,” she said. “There are steps both parties would need to take to improve the conditions for peace, but the parties remain highly engaged. Both parties tell us they want negotiations to continue, and they are searching for a path to do just that.”
Asked whether the administration agreed with a New York Times editorial on Tuesday that the US should lay down the principles it feels should govern an agreement and then “move on and devote their attention to other major international challenges like Ukraine,” Psaki said that neither she, nor the negotiators, nor the parties involved nor US Secretary of State John Kerry accepted that notion.