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Shamir: Palestinian State? Forget It

Agriculture Minister says there is no room for a Palestinian state in the region, says he's willing to fight to keep Jerusalem united.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/2/2014, 6:19 AM

Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir
Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir
Flash 90

Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir (Yisrael Beytenu) reiterated on Friday that he is against a Palestinian state.

The comments were made in an interview with the Israel Hayom daily newspaper.

Shamir, son of Israel's seventh prime minister Yitzchak Shamir, also expressed doubts that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to secure a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) could be successful.

"Considering how both sides are digging in their heels today, I do not see an agreement on the horizon. When you give a conflict that is more than a hundred years old nine months for a solution, as John Kerry has done, that is not serious," he told Israel Hayom.

"I believe in the Americans' good intentions," added Shamir. "Looking at the regional conflict in American or Western terms includes a business approach, like the one that is used to solve conflicts between businesspeople. The problem is that this is not a business. For the Americans, everything looks solvable and logical. This is your position, this is my position, and in the end, we'll compromise. In our region, everything is a good deal more complex.”

He emphasized that he was against the “two-state solution” and that splitting Jerusalem was a red line for him

"I oppose the two-state idea. Let's start with Jerusalem. For me, Jerusalem comes under the heading of 'be killed rather than transgress.' I am willing to fight for it because it is the raison d'etre of the Jewish nation in the Land of Israel," declared Shamir, who said that it is impossible to reach a compromise that would include a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem.

“People may say I am wrong. Let them. A nation that is not willing to fight for its Jerusalem will cease to exist as time goes by,” said Shamir. “True, there are some cities called Jerusalem in the U.S. True, many countries change their capitals. For example, Nigeria changed the name of its capital from Lagos to Abuja. For us, there is no other capital. Jerusalem is the capital of the entire Jewish people, not only those who live in Israel. It is our historical and eternal capital."

He further stated, "I do not think it should be divided, particularly in light of the fact that the other side chose Jerusalem as an act of defiance. When Muslims worship here, they turn their buttocks toward Jerusalem and pray toward Mecca. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran or anywhere else. It is a defiant demand, a way to say, 'This is ours,' and set a contemporary red line."

Asked by Israel Hayom why he opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state so strongly, Shamir responded, "There is not enough space here for two nations. If the space were larger, maybe we could find the right formula. But here, the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is not enough to allow them to establish a state.”

He continued, "Let's say we gave them a state. It means that they would always fight over the space so that they could establish a real state, with a route to the sea, with airspace. Do you know what? Even with room for a major hospital. Look at this area, and you tell me: Where is there room for another state?"

Shamir recalled a recent incident during the president of Chile’s visit to Israel. The president, who visited with several of his ministers, had a meal in the security-cabinet room next door to the Prime Minister's Office, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu invited Shamir to the brief meeting as well.

"At the entrance to the room hangs a satellite photograph of the State of Israel," Shamir told Israel Hayom. "So before the meal, I pointed on the map and showed the ministers that the distance from Metulla to Eilat is just 500 kilometers. They fell off their chairs. 'That is the big Israel?' one of them asked. I answered, 'And now, this, in this area, is what they want to divide.' After all, they want to build a state here that has no right to exist or ability to exist. Establishing such a state here simply means a war that will go on forever.”

Shamir also told Israel Hayom that he believes that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is not interested in reaching any peace agreement.

"As far as they are concerned, any discussion in the talks starts at a better point, so why reach an agreement? On the way, they will receive the release of terrorist murderers without giving anything in return. They have made no concessions. Certainly not on the right of return,” he said.

“They have kept the refugee camps going for generations. I will never forget my visit to Gaza. When I asked a boy of about 15, 'Where are you from?' he told me, 'I'm from Jaffa.' That is how they are brought up -- to this kind of perpetuation, and they are not giving it up," added Shamir.

The solution to the conflict, he said, is to “create good neighborly relations here, mainly by raising the Palestinians' standard of living. I am in favor of reducing the economic inequality between us as much as possible. For example, they build and build. Great -- why not? The more they have to lose, the better."

Asked how his thinking corresponds to that of Netanyahu and the conciliatory line being taken by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, head of Yisrael Beytenu, Shamir suggested that “we have far more in common than not.”

“Many things that have nothing to do with the conflict need to be done in this country,” he added. “I think that the pluralism that exists is not a bad thing. Not even all the members of the Likud are made from a single mold. I do everything I can to encourage the prime minister, not weaken him."