Gal-On hopes Trump can advance peace

Settlement blocs will stay, says Meretz leader

MERETZ HEAD Zehava Gal-On addresses staff at ‘Post’ headquarters in the capital. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
MERETZ HEAD Zehava Gal-On addresses staff at ‘Post’ headquarters in the capital.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
US President Donald Trump could have a positive impact on efforts to advance the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said Sunday in a briefing for Jerusalem Post reporters and editors at the newspaper’s headquarters in the capital.
Gal-On said she strongly opposes Trump for many reasons. She said it bothers her that a sex offender heads a superpower, and that she is disturbed by his Islamophobia and racism.
But on diplomatic issues, she said she is encouraged by statements from the Trump administration that quashed Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett’s hopes that the two-state solution was dead in the Trump era.
“I think Trump can be a significant player,” Gal-On said. “The most consistent thing with him is his inconsistency.”
Gal-On clarified that in any kind of final-status agreement with the Palestinians, the settlement blocs will remain part of Israel forever.
She said that isolated settlements, along with more than 100,000 settlers, would have to be evacuated into the blocs.
“It is not what I thought would happen before, but we have to deal with reality,” she said. “I have internalized this reality that the agreement will include settlement blocs.”
Trump on the two state solution for Israel and Palestinians during meet with Trump , Feb. 15, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)
Gal-On said she does not “see a chance of reaching an agreement with the current leadership,” referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. She said that had Netanyahu followed through on his 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech, in which he endorsed a Palestinian state, with concrete actions, the public would have supported him.
“The government made a mistake by not reaching a deal with Abbas,” she said. “Diplomatic steps can be taken to strengthen Abbas. It is not too late.”
Gal-On lamented that too many Israelis are “afraid to admit they are leftist,” and that many potential Meretz voters choose instead the “Just not Bibi party” and vote for whatever party they believe would have the best chance of unseating Netanyahu.
Asked about imprisoned Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti, she said Israel must consider what the alternatives are among the Palestinians.
“I’ve known him a long time,” she said. “If the Palestinians think he is their leader, then he is their leader. We will have to deal with it. Unfortunately we have already negotiated and signed peace agreements with people who were our greatest enemies and murderers.”