Spat Erupts in Cabinet Over Future of Peace Talks Amid Palestinian Incitement

New report shows official Palestinian Authority media outlets relay Israel has no right to exist; defense minister says until incitement ends, there can be no peace; justice minister argues that incitement can only be prevented once peace agreement resolves conflict.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

An argument erupted Sunday between Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon during a cabinet meeting on the subject of Palestinian Authority incitement against Israel. Livni and Ya’alon reportedly argued over the future of the peace process with the Palestinians. Ya’alon argued that as long as the Palestinians refuse to make changes to school textbooks, it will be impossible to make peace, while Livni claimed that incitement should push Israel to separate from the Palestinians completely.

The topic of Palestinian Authority incitement was not originally included in the meeting’s agenda, it was only added after a tense meeting that took place over the weekend between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Netanyahu, seeking to reintroduce the issue of incitement in order to influence Kerry’s talks with the two sides regarding a possible framework agreement, asked Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz to prepare a briefing to present before the cabinet on Sunday.

During the meeting, which lasted over two hours, Strategic Affairs Ministry Director General Yossi Kuperwasser presented a “Palestinian incitement index.” The index, which was formed in 2009, is an attempt to discern the amount of incitement against Israel among the Palestinian Authority, primarily by examining media publications.

The cabinet was briefed on information from the last few months, during which peace negotiations have been ongoing. The Prime Minister’s Office showed that incitement against Israel within official Palestinian Authority media as well as other entities associated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has continued. In addition, incitement against Israel is also prevalent in the Palestinian education system and within mosques as well. “During the negotiation period, incitement has not gone down, and has even increased in certain areas,” read a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the briefing presented to the ministers on Sunday included evidence that official Palestinian Authority media outlets relay that Israel has no right to exist, and that the Jewish people have no claim to the Holy Land. In addition, other messages prevalent in Palestinian media include that Israel’s disappearance is inevitable, and expected to happen soon, as Jews are sub-human creatures that must be dealt with accordingly, and that all kinds of resistance, including terror, are legitimate means of achieving the final goal.

Most ministers present in the meeting criticized the Palestinian Authority in light of the reports. Ya’alon, whose criticism was harshest of all, stated that since he served as commander of the Israel Defense Forces West Bank division 22 years ago, there has been no change in the education of Palestinian youngsters. “An integral part of Israeli education is aspirations toward peace,” said Ya’alon. “That doesn’t exist in the Palestinian Authority… it’s only worsened.”

Ya’alon also stated that until Palestinian Authority ceases incitement, there can be no progress toward peace, nor the removal of any IDF forces from the West Bank. Ya’alon added that the security arrangements being proposed by Kerry are irrelevant as long as incitement against Israel continues. “It all starts with education – if education is nonexistent, then no technology that can solve the problem,” said Ya’alon, hinting at the American security proposal.

Only Livni, and Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz differed in opinion from the rest of the cabinet ministers. Livni stated that the harsh incitement against Israel within the Palestinian Authority only accentuates the need to reach a diplomatic agreement, and cut off ties. “It’s a difficult reality, but it is not a reason to stop working toward an agreement,” said Livni. “Palestinian incitement is a threat. It’s terrible to teach children to hate. Therefore, I don’t understand those here who do not want to reach an agreement. It’s our responsibility to act and create a solution, not just grumble over our fate, and complain that they hate us and incite against us.”

Livni stated that the conflict with the Palestinians must be solved by a peace agreement, and only then will it be possible to properly address the problem of incitement. “The conflict will not be solved by adopting the narrative of one side over the other, or deciding who is more correct,” said Livni. “The conflict will only be solved by an agreement, with mutual recognition. Then it will be possible to demand that a culture of peace be upheld, and that incitement be prevented.”

Netanyahu rejected Livni’s position, and aligned himself with Ya’alon. “Real peace cannot come without an end to incitement against Israel, or education for peace,” said Netanyahu. “The Palestinians’ unwillingness to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people and put an end to nationalist claims – that’s the root of the conflict. It’s also the reason that we are demanding significant security arrangements, so that we will be able to defend ourselves, on our own, in any situation.”

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