Peace Deal 'Moving Further Away,' Says Netanyahu
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu opened the Likud party's faction meeting on Tuesday with announcements about the direction of talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Knesset votes slated for this week.
"In light of statements made by the Palestinians, we are moving away from a peace deal," Netanyahu noted. "They said this week they would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state and never give up the right of return."
"I want to clarify that I will not bring an agreement that would not eliminate the right of return and not demand Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state - these are justified basic conditions as far as Israel is concerned," he continued. "The Palestinians show no indication that they intend to reach an agreement that is practical and just."
The PA has formally refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state throughout talks, stating that "the Arab states will never recognize a Jewish state." PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas reiterated this position earlier this month, when he told young members of his Fatah movement that “there is no way” he would recognize Israel. On Sunday, Abbas was backed by the Arab League, as the league’s head, Nabil Elaraby, urged Arab countries to take a “firm stand” against Israel’s demand for the PA to recognize it as a Jewish state.
The announcement also follows news earlier this week that the US has dropped demands on the PA to recognize Israel. Likud MKs, including Danny Danon, have called on the Prime Minister to stand firm against a deal without the clause, widely seen as a "deal-breaker" in the ongoing talks to establish a framework for peace.
"A strong government is good for the Jewish people"
Netanyahu also stressed, in light of the hullaballoo regarding the laws being pushed through the Knesset this week, that a "strong coalition can ensure the advancement of Israeli society."
Three major laws are up for a Knesset vote this week, each of which has caused ire with the Opposition.
The Governance Law, if passed, would raise the threshold for representation in the Knesset; the Equal Burden of Service law would enforce a draft on the hareidi sector; and the Referendum Law would strengthen existing laws preventing land swaps without a Knesset majority and a public vote, making the law immune to being overturned by the High Court for Justice.
The Opposition made headlines Monday when it announced that it would boycott the marathon voting rounds.
Netanyahu declared that the key to this week's vote is to stay unified under the banner of strong governance.
"It's good for Israel that we have a strong government and a strong coalition in the Knesset," Netanyahu noted. "Through this strength we can guarantee Israel's security, the stability of the Israeli economy, the advancement of Israeli society and the enactment of new laws, as we are doing this week."
Regarding the Opposition, Netanyahu dismissed claims that the current coalition is being undemocratic.
"At first they said we were too weak; now they say we are too strong," he noted. "A strong government is good for the State of Israel."
Netanyahu also noted that the Governance Law, which is due for a Knesset vote later Tuesday, has been "on the agenda for years" and that he is "confident it will pass."
Regarding the Equal Burden of Service Law, the Prime Minister opined that the decision is not a matter of will, but a matter of necessity.
"[This is the decision] that is required by the court, which determined that we must enact it," he noted, referring to the expiration of the previous law regulating hareidi service, known as the Tal Law. "Two years ago we pledged to pass a new law. We have made a great effort to do it gradually, taking into consideration the needs of the haredi community and the world of Torah and of course we have made a genuine attempt not to incite one sector against the other."
The Prime Minister concluded by noting that he "personally supports" the Referendum Law and that the government has been working to enact it "for many years."