Israel Conference on Peace: Rivlin’s Hope, Abbas’ Offer, Tibi’s Despair

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President Reuven Rivlin at Haaretz's Israel Conference on Peace, June 12, 2017.
President Reuven Rivlin at Haaretz's Israel Conference on Peace, June 12, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Far-right lawmaker Smotrich says wouldn't give Palestinians vote if Israel annexed West Bank

Commenting on his proposal that would have Israel annex the West Bank, lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) said he would not give the Palestinians living there the right to vote as part of the plan.

There is no place in the world, no perspective or basic assumption that would cause a country to commit suicide, including civil suicide by granting the right to vote, the far-right lawmaker said.

Smotrich, who was a panelist on the topic of The Ultimate Deal for Solving the Conflict, responded to critics: You are to decide what democracy is? You are to decide what apartheid is? I will give [the Palestinians] many more rights than what they would have in any of the agreements that anyone would imagine, more than what they have today in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority.

Zehava Galon, the chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party, was highly critical of the organizers of the Haaretz Conference on Peace for inviting Smotrich. What got into your heads to invite a supporter of apartheid and ethnic cleansing? she asked.

Referring to the late and virulently anti-Arab founder of the Kach movement, Meir Kahane, Galon remarked: Would you have invited Kahane to appear at the conference? Why? Because it generates traffic and ratings? Someone who was a symbol of extremism yesterday becomes the center tomorrow. Smotrich is a screaming red line. Such people who support ethnic cleansing must not be given legitimacy. It's not purism. We don't legitimize racism. Ever. We need to stand by our principles.

Commenting on the right-wing representatives' proposals to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians, Galon said: The right has no solution to the conflict.

For close to a decade, Netanyahu has been touting the concept here of managing the conflict, but the conflict is managing him, she said. Even that is preferable to the spectrum of solutions that the government is offering us today, solutions that range between baseless and monstrous, between Bennett's utopian version for Bosnia, which is annexation of the territories, to the new invention from your new friend here, which is annexation of the territories and democracy without the right to vote, from the school of thought of Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich.

Israeli Arab lawmaker: 'We're further than ever from an Israeli-Palestinian deal'

Lawmaker Ahmed Tibi (Joint Arab List) dismissed claims of progress in talks between Israelis and Palestinians, saying that we are further than ever from an agreement.

I heard Defense Minister Lieberman say recently that we are closer than ever to an agreement, Tibi said in a panel discussion at the Haaretz conference on the ultimate deal for solving the conflict.

I can tell you, and I would claim that I know what's happening: We are further than ever from an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, despite the visits by President Trump [to Jerusalem and Bethlehem] and the meetings that took place. Our role as a minority is to say on every platform without embarrassment, enough of the occupation.

Tibi called the occupation messianic and said that there are only two parties in the Knesset that say so – his Joint Arab List faction and the left-wing Meretz party – but not the Zionist Union or Yesh Atid, which are also in the opposition.

For his part, in conversation with Haaretz columnist Israel Harel, Joint Arab List chairman Ayman Odeh said: The Jews exercised their right to self-determination in 1948. In negotiations, you [shouldn't] talk about the national rights of the Jews, but rather you need to talk about the national rights of the Palestinian people that have not yet been exercised.

Prominent Haredi MK: I'm left-leaning but won't join leftists because they sit with Reform Jews

Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), the ultra-Orthodox chairman of the Knesset's Finance Committee, told Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn that although he is left-leaning, he will not join forces with the left because they "sit with Reform Jews."

Speaking to Benn, Gafni said: [People] always ask me at lectures of this kind: From a diplomatic standpoint, you tend more to the left. Why don't you go with them?

Its because you [the left] are sitting with the Reform Jews, Gafni continued, in a reference to representatives of Reform Judaism.

I sit with everyone in the Knesset, but I dont sit with the Reform, Gafni said. For me the Reform are the most difficult problem. It's the most serious harm to the Jewish people. I don't like the legislation that this government is presenting on all kinds of right-wing subjects, I really don't.

Gafni went on to explain: If I could, I would have voted against [right-wing legislation], but I have no ally. I have no one on the left who would say: On what's most precious to you, we are with you through fire and water.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Reform movement in Israel, said in response: It is regretful that Gafnys hatred of Reform Jews is more important to him than saving human lives and ensuring the future of the state of Israel. His attempt to excuse in this way the longstanding backing of the ultra-Orthodox parties for the political stalemate is an insult to the intelligence. If Gafny is willing to express his immediate support for a two-state solution in exchange for suspending the government's agreement to build an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, I believe there will be one or two Reform Jews who might agree to that. It is doubtful, though, that Gafny, he knight of hatred, will respond to this challenge."

Tzipi Livni: Settlement construction is 'creating future problems'

Lawmaker Tzipi Livni, the no. 2 in the Zionist Union, slammed settlement construction in the West Bank, saying it does not contribute to peace and is creating future problems.

Speaking to Haaretzs Ravit Hecht, Livni said the settlements, "certainly the new ones and new construction, are part of the vision of a Greater Land of Israel," a reference to those seeking to annex the West Bank. "It is not connected to peace. It is only creating problems for the future."

Responding to a question about the difference between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Habayit Hayehudi party, Livni said: "Israel's glass ceiling at the moment is Bennett permits," implying that Bennett is constraining progress in the peace process.

"Netanyahu calls it his 'base.' As long as that's Netanyahu's glass ceiling, nothing significant will happen. If Netanyahu decides or is led to take decisions by the U.S. administration, that will be the choice. Netanyahu is always signaling a left turn, comes to an intersection, and turns right," Livni said.

Livni also commented on reports over the past several days in Haaretz about a 2014 framework document that then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sought to develop.

Livni, who was Israel's justice minister in 2014 with special responsibility for negotiations with the Palestinians, said: "All of the things that you are hearing today are really a retreat by Netanyahu from those same understandings that he had reached. He will argue that it's not him but rather the Americans, but believe me, every letter was acceptable to him."

EU representative: Ending the occupation will improve Israel's ties with Europe

European Union representative Nick Westcott said that Israel could improve its ties with the EU by ending the occupation.

"The occupation comes with obligations under international law," said Westcott, managing director for the Middle East and North Africa at the European External Action Service, European Union.

He said that the one point he agrees on with U.S. President Donald Trump is that "the time is as good at it'll ever be" to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He said the EU will offer a unique privileged partnership to Israel if the sides reach a peace deal based on the Oslo accords.

Herzog: Controlling another people is ruining Israel

A discussion between Labor chairman Isaac Herzog and Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy escalated into a shouting match when Levy accused Herzog of always ignoring the occupation and talking only about "what's good for Israel."

"I would expect a moral dialogue," Levy said.

"I wouldn't expect anything else from someone who called IDF pilots war criminals," Herzog replied.

"Five-hundred women killed isn't a war crime?" Levy shouted, referring to the casualties of the 2014 Gaza war.

"We ceaselessly talk about controlling another people," Herzog retorted.

The opposition leader accused Levy of "hurling all the blame at the State of Israel without realizing that on the other side, [the Palestinians] don't deal with their own flaws. You're only justifying them."

Herzog said that unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank would be "a national disaster" but also said that the "settlements are of unreasonable size" and that "control over another people is ruining Israel."

He further said that the Maaleh Adumim settlement and the Etzion bloc would remain a part of Israel under a future peace agreement "because they are essential for the security of Israel's center," but added that the Palestinians would be given other land instead.

Minister Katz: Israel has no policy for Gaza, only decisions

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said that "Israel has no policy for Gaza, only decisions," after being asked about the decision to reduce the electricity supply to the enclave.

On Sunday, the narrow security cabinet decided to accept the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and reduce the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip. Full story

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz at Haaretz's Israel Conference for Peace, June 12, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Rivlin: Decision on Israel's future looms - and it may tear us apart

President Reuven Rivlin said that sooner or later Israel will have to make a decision on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and warned it could tear Israeli society apart.

Rivlin said that the dispute between the right and left comes down to "our ability to live here safely versus our existence as a democratic state," and urged each side to stop trying to delegitimize the other.

He also warned against the erosion of the country's democracy, arguing against persecuting Israel in the international arena. Full story

President Reuven Rivlin at Haaretz's Israel Conference on Peace, June 12, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Abbas: I'm willing to meet and negotiate with Netanyahu at any time

In a recorded speech for the Israel Conference on Peace, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to miss the opportunity to achieve peace currently presented by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Abbas reiterated his position that he is willing to meet Netanyahu at any time, in order to reach an understanding on concrete steps that can be taken to resolve the issues standing in the way of ending the occupation and reaching a lasting peace agreement. Full story

Bennett: 'Better a united Jerusalem than a diplomatic accord'

Education Minister Naftali Bennett told Haaretz's Israel Conference on Peace on Monday that he prefers a "united Jerusalem to a diplomatic accord," and was met with jeers from the audience.

Bennett responded by telling audience members that they should let him talk "as you would let [Marwan] Barghouti talk," referencing the jailed Palestinian leader and militant.

Bennett said that the "left does not have a monopoly on peace," adding that "In contrast to what you think, peace is reached not through concessions and ceding land, but from strength I want peace just as much as you, but I want a right-wing peace.

"We've been condemned to living alongside the Palestinians. There's no love lost between us, but they arent going anywhere and we arent going anywhere," he said. Full story

Herzog: I still believe that a breakthrough could lead to peace in region

The six leading candidates for Labor Party leadership – incumbent chairman Isaac Herzog, MK Amir Peretz, MK Omer Bar-Lev, Avi Gabbay, and Amiram Levin – held a debate.

The moderator, journalist Raviv Drucker, asked Herzog about Haaretz's report that he met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi in Cairo, alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Herzog said the summit was part of a foundation for a regional peace move. "We can reach a breakthrough that would change history, I was convinced of it then, and I still am today."

The Labor Party debate at the Israel Conference for Peace.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

PM to Trump: Accept settlements as Israeli enclaves in Palestinian territory

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told senior Trump administration officials that in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians, Israel will seek to allow isolated settlements that won't be annexed to its territory to remain in place as enclaves that would be under Israeli sovereignty.

This marks a change and a hardening in Netanyahu's position compared to the position that was presented during his negotiations with the Obama administration over its 2014 "framework document" for Israeli-Palestinian peace. As Haaretz reported on Saturday, at the time Netanyahu offered that settlers who wished to stay in their homes would do so "under Palestinian jurisdiction." Full story

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