Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development Silvan Shalom visited Toronto, New York and Washington this past week. While in Toronto, Shalom participated in an event at the local Chabad Israeli Community Center which held a fundraiser to complete construction of its new building north of the city.
In an interview with a Toronto-based Jewish website on Friday, Shalom criticized Defense Minister Ehud Barak who recently suggested that Israel consider a unilateral disengagement from Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron), similar to that carried out by the Israeli government in the Gush Katif region of Gaza in August of 2005.
Minister Shalom expressed his unequivocal support for further construction in Judea and Samaria, and rejected the idea of a disengagement, saying, “I think it would be a catastrophe. The disengagement from Gaza failed and its results are very bad. It brought missiles on Israeli cities: Be'er Sheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon and maybe even Tel Aviv. I think it would be a foolish move to do something similar in Judea and Samaria.”
He also placed the responsibility for the stalemate in the peace process on the Palestinian Authority, whose chairman Mahmoud Abbas has continued to insist on pre-conditions for negotiations. Shalom rejected Abbas’ demands that Israel accept the indefensible pre-1967 borders as a precondition for negotiations, and claimed that Abbas did not want to start negotiations all along, in the hope he would be able to achieve recognition for “Palestine” within the United Nations.
Abbas warned on Friday that he may seek non-member status for a Palestinian state at the United Nations General Assembly, if peace talks with Israel do not resume.
The UN Security Council blocked Abbas’ bid to become a full member last September, after he failed to get the required support of nine of the Security Council’s 15 members.
In the interview, Shalom also addressed the Arab Spring, saying it created an anti-Israeli situation in the Middle East, but expressing hope that the public in these countries will recognize its mistake and try to turn back the clock.
“It does not look good,” said Shalom. “I believe that people in the countries where there was an uprising that changed the nature of the regime will realize the mistake they made and try to find ways how to change the regime again. Unfortunately, in every country that has experienced an uprising and in which new elections took place, the extremists were brought into power rather than those groups who believe in good relations with Israel.”