In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely addressed her disagreement with Education Minister Naftali Bennett over the government’s conduct during the Trump administration in the US.
Yesterday, Hotovely characterized Bennett’s conduct as not befitting leadership such that he came out criticizing the very same policy he had supported previously at the cabinet meeting. Likewise, she hinted that political and other interests were dictating his statements.
“It is important that the nationalist camp know the facts,” Hotovely said, establishing that not only was a strategic opportunity not missed as Bennett had suggested, but that a “great political gateway” had been opened through which “all the good forces can speak to the American administration, which is consolidating new policy.”
Hotovely continued to explain her words in light of her last visit to the US state department. “They are at a new stage of assessments, also as pertains to the issue of two states. They are completely open. The gates of political thinking have not been closed,” she said, bringing up the fact that only at the end of April will US Ambassador David Friedman arrive in Israel as further indication that Washington is in a period of preparation and learning.
According to Hotovely, Israel must “take advantage of the opportunity and not cry, because nothing is lost.” When asked why, if so, the Prime Minister does not find it fitting to announce clearly that the Bar Ilan Speech is dead and that Israel is opening a completely new political process, she said that “exactly for this reason the PM travelled to Washington, in order to erase the Palestinian state.”
She said that the political discourse now deals with living conditions and economic projects for Palestinians and is no longer about the political discourse of the Obama years which centered around the vision of a Palestinian state. She did praise the desire on the Right to see change, but said that that change is indeed happening.
As to the death of the Bar Ilan Speech, she said that that was effectively the significance of the PM’s words in Washington, when he emphasized the changes underway in the Middle East and the new conditions that exist in the field along with the election of a US President who emphasizes that it is not his intention to enforce policy on Israel but to see the entire region as a unit that must be addressed and not to simply focus on the Palestinian issue. “That is good news for Israel.”
“In Washington I heard the Speaker of the House, Nikki Haley, and the Vice President. Nobody talked about two states or a Palestinian state, rather they are concerned about the security of Israel, that Israel needs to be strong and that they will do whatever they can to stop the discriminatory discourse against Israel. This is a new tune in Washington. I don’t know why Israelis are deaf to hearing this. There is a dulling of senses here about the fact that it’s a new game and not just “a new sheriff,” as the US UN Ambassador said.
She said that this period, during which the new US administration is forming its plans “is the time to work quietly, to ensure the fact that initiatives that are on the table are advanced by the administration as acceptable developments for all parties. As long as the US leads the processes it will be possible to attach additional regional policies to them. This is the time to work in groups with the Americans and prove the failure of the approach of the two-state solution due to the Palestinian refusal to accept an Israeli presence here, and emphasize that we’re talking about a regional problem. The Palestinians have Arab neighbors and it’s their problem, too.”
“Above all,” added Hotovely, “We need to talk about the fact that the settlement enterprise is here forever. We cannot talk about withdrawals. Fortunately, in the past 8 years with all its difficulties there was still no withdrawal program on the table. At the moment, the settlement enterprise needs to advance and become accepted as a legitimate legal tool. This is the land of the Jewish people and it was not stolen suddenly, and fortunately we are starting to hear a different tune in places like Britain and the US, that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace and are not the main problem in the Middle East.”
Later, Hotovely addressed wonder at Minister Bennett’s conduct, after he voted for the plan presented by the Prime Minister - but later tweeted that he wanted a different policy. She didn’t accept his explanation, that he voted for the limitations on building in Judea and Samaria but simultaneously opposes the political situation whereby a strategic opportunity was missed to apply sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. “There is a real window of opportunity for new political thinking, also for thinking about sovereignty. Everything is on the table. We need to do things in coordination with the American administration. The more we leverage the support of the administration for Israeli interests we can better achieve historic results, such as a recognition of Jerusalem as the capital and the transfer of the embassy.”
Regarding reports from the meeting between Trump and Al-Sisi about the advancement of a regional peace summit, Hotovely said that the matter is being coordinated with the Israeli government which is aware that Washington finds itself in a new reality with Egypt and also wants to strengthen Jordan. “The PM understands that the approach is that relations with our neighbors will contribute to a solution to the problem and not the opposite.”
Towards the end of the interview, Hotovely was asked to address the return of former Minister Gideon Saar to politics and the ranks of the Likud. She said that she accepts Saar warmly. “The return of every important political player to the scene is a good thing. We need all our good forces back, and I wish that the Finance Minister would also come back to the Likud. At the end of the day, the Likud is a strong movement which needs all its top players united around our march to the next elections.”
As to the assertion that Saar is returning because he sees the tenure of Netanyahu’s rule coming to an end and he seeks to fill the space instead, Hotovely said, “since I have been in the Likud - already 8 years - they’ve been talking about the end of the Netanyahu era, but the Netanyahu era is continuing. I tell all the commentators that many more years of Netanyahu are awaiting them.”