Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) warned on Saturday that if a Palestinian state will be established near Israel, it will endanger most of Israel’s cities.
Speaking at a cultural event in Tel Aviv that was also attended by former President Yitzchak Navon, Akunis said, "My conclusion from everything surrounding the negotiations is that the Palestinians are the obstacle to peace. Their insistence not to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people proves that the conflict is not only a territorial dispute but also a conflict about our existence.”
He added, “I believe in negotiations with the Palestinians, but we must understand that a Palestinian state could place most Israeli cities in jeopardy. My worldview, which is also the view of the Likud, is that we do not want to rule over the Palestinians, let them rule over themselves...I support maximum self-rule for the Palestinians and deeper economic cooperation between us and them, but I am not prepared to have a Palestinian state be established near my own country.”
Referring to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s remarks about U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry which caused a diplomatic row with the Americans, Akunis said, "The comments were made in a closed conversation between the defense minister and a veteran journalist. I think that different language could have been used. Yes there are negotiations, and they are even serious, contrary to the declarations of the defense minister.”
He noted that the Jordanians are against an Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley, saying that the issue came up in conversations between Israeli officials and their Jordanian counterparts.
"The Jordanians oppose an Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley out of fear that if a Palestinian state is established and extremists such as Hamas, Al-Qaeda etc. take over it, it will threaten the rule of the King of Jordan, not only Tel Aviv,” said Akunis.
The issue of the Jordan Valley has become a point of contention in the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), which insists on full control of the Jordan Valley – along with all other land that was under Jordanian control from 1948 to 1967. Israeli experts have warned that the area is strategically critical.
Recent reports indicated that Kerry was pushing the sides to agree to a deal that involves a slow transition from IDF patrols over the region to PA forces, with an international presence. IDF drones would also be deployed over the area, as a means of gathering information about potential terrorist activity.
The London-based Arabic news outlet Al Hayat reported on Saturday that Kerry will present a framework deal at the end of January at a conference in the Jordanian city of Aqaba.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a last-minute trip to Amman Thursday, meeting with King Abdullah II over the peace talks. The contents of the meeting were kept under wraps.
The U.S. welcomed the move, and revealed that they had been aware of Netanyahu's trip.