Daily Israel Report

Obama to Bennett: We Should Talk

U.S. President Barack Obama told Minister Naftali Bennett that he would be interested in speaking to him, despite their differences.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/22/2013, 4:13 AM

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Israel news photo: Flash 90

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday told Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Naftali Bennett (head of Bayit Yehudi) that he would be interested in speaking to him, despite the differences in opinions between the two.

Obama made the comments during a brief conversation with Bennett before the festive dinner that was held in Obama’s honor at the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem.

President Shimon Peres introduced Bennett to Obama, at which point Obama turned to the newly sworn-in minister and, in a joking reference to his own political career, said, “I heard about you. You're the man who came out of nowhere, managed to sweep the people and won.”

Bennett, whose parents made aliyah to Israel from the United States before the Six Day War and who himself lived for several years in the U.S., speaks fluent and coherent English and is often interviewed by foreign television networks, where he uses his excellent English skills to explain his position against the establishment of a Palestinian state that would threaten central Israel with terrorism.

Bennett told President Obama, "I just finished reading the biography of President Truman. Since President Truman there hasn’t been a U.S. President who is as responsible for the fate of the Jewish people as the responsibility that rests on your shoulders.”

President Obama, who listened to Bennett’s remarks, replied, "I want us to speak again, it’s very important to me that we speak again. It’s important that I hear differing opinions in Israel."

Instead of the so-called “two-state solution”, Bennett supports a plan that would see Israel annexing Area C of Judea and Samaria, which is under the complete control of Israel's government under the Oslo Accords and has all the Jewish communities. He would have Israel offering citizenship to some 50,000 Arabs who live there, but constitute only 4% of the Palestinian Authority Arab population in Judea and Samaria which is mainly in areas A and B.

Bennett has explained that this would be the best alternative to a two-state solution that would see the PA Arabs establishing an army that could target the heart of Israel with terrorist attacks.

Obama, meanwhile, once again called for the two-state solution in his speech in Jerusalem on Thursday, adding that “Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace.”

Reacting to the speech (before he met Obama at the Presidential Residence), Bennett said, "Obama's statement certainly came out of concern for Israel and out of true friendship, but we witnessed the results of our previous withdrawal from Gaza in Sderot this morning and in the thousands of victims over the past several years.”

Bennett reiterated his opinion that the establishment of a Palestinian state is not the right way to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict. “It’s time for new and creative concepts to solve the Middle East conflict and in general, there is no such thing as an occupation in one’s own land,” he said.