PA Fuming Over Israeli PM’s Remarks Opposing Palestinian State
Regardless of differing approaches and goals, Palestinian and Israeli leaders have a shared interest in continuing contacts, experts say
Palestinians are furious over an interview that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gave to the Israeli media last week, in which he said it would be “a terrible mistake to create a Palestinian diplomatic entity in our land.”
Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Bennett’s statements “are worthless and will only increase our determination to establish our independent state.”
Abu Rudeineh told the Voice of Palestine radio station, “The Palestinian-American contacts are moving slowly but they have not reached a dead end.”
Professor Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, a conservative think tank, told The Media Line that Bennett had no problem with his ministers meeting Palestinians to discuss economic issues but that he rejected any political discussion, adding that the top three officials in the Israeli government were not on board on this issue.
“They are in disagreement. This government contains many spectra; they disagree on how to progress on the Palestinian issue, but they all agree not to have this issue on the agenda.”
Inbar said that the prime minister was notified about these meetings.
“These meetings are not going to produce any breakthrough and by nature are limited in their scope.”
He says that the Palestinians are expressing a “maximalist position” to achieve their own goals.
“They attack Israel in every international forum and as long as there is division between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, there is no chance to make any political progress.”
He adds that Abbas is desperate to stay relevant, and for him to do that, he needs to appease his base.
“[Defense Minister Benny] Gantz and [Foreign Minister Yair] Lapid believe it’s important to keep the PA from collapsing; it’s also important to Bennett.”
PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with the prime minister’s remarks.
“The end of the occupation and the establishment of the Palestinian state won’t wait for Bennett’s approval.”
Al-Sheikh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, added, “He should be aware that the number of countries recognizing the State of Palestine is greater than the number recognizing Israel.”
Al-Sheikh is one of the closest officials to PA President Mahmoud Abbas and is considered one of his potential successors.
“Security, stability and peace will only be achieved with the end of the occupation and the establishment of the State of Palestine,” he wrote in the tweet.
The senior PA official met Lapid last week, and said, “Diplomatic issues are to be discussed.”
Ahmed Rafiq Awad, president of the Jerusalem Center for Future Studies at Al-Quds University, told The Media Line that Bennett’s statement poured cold water on PA officials’ attempts to give the impression that they were in real serious discussions with Israeli officials on restarting the stalled peace talks, and that they were able to extract “real accomplishments,” as they have repeatedly claimed, from the Israeli government.
“Bennett’s statements blew up in the face of PA officials faces,” says Rafiq Awad. “There is no political path; what is happening is an economic path and nothing more.”
In his interview to Israeli media, Bennett seemed unconvinced by his ministers’ approach to the Palestinians.
“There is no actual contradiction because Bennett’s statements coincide with Lapid’s approach. The two have said before that they are not in favor of peace negotiations or a political settlement on a two-state solution.”
Lapid himself has said several times that if he becomes prime minister, he will not enter negotiations with the authority over the two-state solution.
“Therefore, this government is in agreement with all its parties and spectra. For it to remain in power, it must not enter a real settlement process that leads to mobilization or reaching political results,” says Rafiq Awad.
Rafiq Awad says Bennett’s vision is based on “managing” the conflict, without talking about a political settlement. “That’s why it is important to have a channel of communication.”
The PA is going through financial and political crises and is looking for ways to stay alive and relevant.
“These meetings are in the interest of strengthening the PA’s position, and they are also in Israel’s interest, which is to maintain the PA as an established body in the West Bank,” says Rafiq Awad.
He says that Abbas and Palestinian officials’ meetings with the Israelis also come because of regional and international pressure on the Palestinians.