Israel should take an initiative ahead of President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to the region and announce that it will not build Jewish homes beyond what is known as the “settlement blocs”, Deputy Prime Minister and Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor said on Friday.
Speaking to Channel 2 News, Meridor said, “Any construction beyond the blocs poses a question mark over the correctness of our claims, according to which we agree to a Palestinian state.”
“The Israeli government will behave correctly if it announces that any new construction is in line with our political policy,” he added.
Meridor, considered one of the “moderates” in the Likud party, was placed in an unrealistic spot on the Likud’s Knesset list in December's primaries. He was thus not elected to the Knesset and will not serve in the next Cabinet. However, since there is no new coalition yet, the previous government’s ministers continue to serve in their roles for the time being.
Meridor in the past declared that “Ramallah and Hevron are not part of the state of Israel”, and rejected calls on Israel to adopt the Levy Report, which declared unequivocally that the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are legal by international law.
He accused Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for not cooperating with Israel's proposals, including the “generous offer”, as he put it, proposed by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008 and which was rejected by the PA.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice revealed in her memoir that Olmert offered Abbas 94% of Judea and Samaria, as well as shared control over Jerusalem. Abbas rejected the offer.
“I believe that even if we had repeated Olmert's proposal, Abbas would not have been able to establish a demilitarized state and clean Gaza from the terrorist missiles because Hamas wouldn’t let him,” predicted Meridor, adding that in any case, “even if it is not possible to reach an agreement it would be the right thing to take an initiative and avoid construction in the settlements.”
Meridor’s comments come after the White House confirmed this week that President Obama would be visiting Israel, for the first time as president.
While the U.S. has indicated that Obama’s visit is not meant at presenting a new proposal for peace talks with the PA, a diplomatic source told Channel 2 News on Friday that Britain and France are planning to pressure Israel to resume the peace process and will threaten to take a series of measures against Israel if the U.S. president fails in his efforts to move the negotiations forward.
The sources indicated that Britain and France are waiting for Obama's visit to Israel in order to determine whether the United States can lead to serious renewal of talks with the PA. If they perceive that Obama has failed, however, they will take a series of measures against Israel.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)