We Won't Accept Parts of Trump's Plan, Israeli Minister Says

Rafi Peretz says settlement construction freezes, recognition of Palestinian state out of the question after Netanyahu defended Middle East plan from settlement leaders' criticism

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Outgoing Education Minister Rafi Peretz at a press conference on the coronavirus, Jerusalem, March 12, 2020
Outgoing Education Minister Rafi Peretz at a press conference on the coronavirus, Jerusalem, March 12, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Rafi Peretz said Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump's peace plan has "clauses we cannot accept." 

"We will not accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in my homeland. I will oppose any mention of recognition of a Palestinian state in the legislation to come,” Peretz wrote in a Facebook post. “We will not accept a construction freeze [on settlements]. The State of Israel has sent the settlers [to the settlements] and it is impossible to accept a situation in which we cut off these communities."

Peretz conceded that Trump is a "true friend of the State of Israel" and that he was sure his intentions were in Israel's best interests. He said this was proven by recognition of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem and the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. 

"There is no doubt that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's great friendship with President Trump have brought us to a state of international recognition with Judea and Samaria," he added.

Peretz called Trump's Middle East plan a "golden opportunity that must be siezed," but warned that in accepting the plan decision-makers will do long-term damage to the country and "our values." 

"We will support the application of sovereignty and push for it with all force. And we will oppose the steps that will promote the establishment of another state between the Jordan River and the sea," he said.

On Thursday, President Reuven Rivlin called for an end to what he called “attempts to silence” the conversation around Israel's plans to annex parts of the West Bank, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu condemned statements by a prominent settler leader criticizing Trump’s plan.

“The conversation about critical questions, like annexation, must take place,” Rivlin said in a video uploaded to his Facebook page. “This is the lifeblood of democracy. We must fear those who silence this discourse.” Questions, doubts and criticism from all sides of the political spectrum must be heard, the president said, adding that “verbal abuse, labeling, scorn and disdain must end. 

In recent weeks, settler leaders have been criticizing aspects of the plan, namely a freeze on settlement expansion and the leaving some 15 isolated settlements inside territories of a future Palestinian state, which they also oppose the establishment of.

David Elhayani, chairman of the Yesha Council umbrella group of settlement councils, drew criticism from Netanyahu after saying that Trump and his senior adviser Jared Kushner "have proven in their plans that they are not friends of the State of Israel" and "do not have Israel's security and settlement interests in mind. All they care about in this outline is promoting their own interests ahead of the upcoming election, [in a way that would] help Trump."

As he "fiercely condemned" Elyahani's comments, Netanyahu praised Trump's Israel policies: "He has led historic processes for the good of the State of Israel, among them recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capitol, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the legality of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria."

Trump's plan, Netanyahu added, "includes recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, Israeli security control of all territory west of the Jordan River, a united Jerusalem, disarming Hamas, preventing [Palestinian] refugees from entering Israel and more.  Sadly," he added, "instead of recognizing the good, there are those who deny this friendship."

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