As a U.S.-brokered “framework agreement” for the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks appears imminent, opposition to the idea of a two-state solution is growing in Israel — at least according to Israeli economy minister Naftali Bennett.
“There is an attempt to vacate Judea and Samaria of Jews and build an Arab-Muslim state in the heart of Israel, literally 10 minutes from here,” Bennett told a visiting group of Jewish leaders, using the biblical names for the West Bank.
“Copy and paste what happened in Gaza, Lebanon and even Judea and Samaria,” he urged. “Ten years ago we vacated cites in the West Bank and they killed 1,000 Israelis, many of them here in Jerusalem.”
In his talk, Bennett also rejected the idea that Israel is “occupying” the areas that it acquired as a result of the 1967 war. He said that neither the “2 million Palestinians who live there nor the 700,000 Jews are going anywhere,” but called for more economic opportunities for Palestinians.
It was not clear where that 700,000 number came from. About 350,000 Israelis live in post-1967 areas, while another 200,000 live in areas of Jerusalem that Israel annexed in 1967.
“There’s a land dispute, but there’s no occupation,” Bennett said. “You can’t occupy your own home.”
Bennett, a former director of the movement of Jews who live in post-1967 areas called the Yesha Council, was asked if Secretary of State John Kerry is anti-Semitic.
“Kerry is no anti-Semite,” Bennett said firmly. “But sometimes the world gets it wrong. At the end of the day, our children will pay the price. We will do what is best for us.”
Bennett’s audience seemed supportive of his comments.
“The Arab leadership continues to reject the two-state solution, so it is not shocking if the Israeli leadership does so as well,” said Ken Abramowitz of the American Friends of the Likud. “They want their own state within the 1967 borders, and then they want the rest of Israel.”
A few in the audience said they worried that Israel’s continued building in post-1967 areas was alienating not only the Obama administration, but also many younger American Jews.
“My concern is that American Jews believe that settlements are inappropriate and do not help the peace process,” said Seymour Reich, a past president of B’nai B’rith. “We hear this on college campuses as well as other places. This will hurt us going forward.”
Meanwhile, the Yesha Council, which defines itself as “the official organization of the Israeli settlement movement, representing over 360,000 Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria,” has started a website called “John Kerry Solutions Ltd,” which spoofs the secretary of state (http://en.johnkerry.co.il).
Videos distributed by the group show a John Kerry look-alike visiting sites around Israel including the Western Wall.
“Dividing Jerusalem is not an easy thing,” the Kerry look-alike says in a heavy Israeli accent. “We must realize it’s holy to all religions — Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Klingons and Hobbits. What I’m saying is, why fight over an old wall?” the character asks while pointing to Judaism’s holiest site.
The Yesha Council claims the videos have been seen “millions” of times and caused enough of a stir to provoke a reprimand from the State Department, with a spokeswoman calling it “unacceptable.”