Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says the peace process with the Palestinians is effetely dead at present, and as such there’s no point in even trying to meet with their leaders.
“I don’t see any logic in meeting someone who is suing IDF soldiers at The Hague and accusing them of war crimes, and at the same time paying salaries to terrorists,” Bennett said of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in a pre-Yom Kippur interview with the Kan public broadcaster.
At the same time, Bennett said he is in favor of maintaining cooperation and security ties with the Palestinian Authority for the sake of relative calm, which is why he was not opposed to Defense Minister Benny Gantz meeting with Abbas earlier this month.
But as for the peace process? “We all understand that at the moment it’s not relevant,” insisted Bennett.
Even if talks were to resume, something both the US and Egypt are keen to see happen, Bennett stressed that he would never acquiesce to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state. “I oppose a Palestinian state — I think it would be a terrible mistake,” he said. “I won’t do that.”
Meanwhile, some Palestinian officials this week were quietly praising Israel Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (who in two years will take over for Bennett as prime minister) for presenting a scheme to economically rehabilitate the Gaza Strip.
In an address on Sunday at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism Policy of Reichman University (formerly the IDC Herzliya), Lapid suggested a two-stage plan of international investment and Israeli-Palestinian cooperation to rebuild Gaza’s infrastructure, build a massive new seaport, and promote local business.
Lapid said this would all take place under close international supervision and on condition of Hamas reining in all violence against Israel. He also sees, as part of the second stage, the Palestinian Authority returning to take control of economic and civil affairs in Gaza.
“This is the new Oslo. The program Lapid announced could save Gaza. This is the first time in 11 years that someone in Israel is suggesting a solution to the problem of Gaza in the framework of a two-state solution,” an unnamed Palestinian official told Zman Israel, after both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaderships had publicly rejected Lapid’s proposal.
Lapid did not explain why he believes Hamas will agree to return control of Gaza to its rivals in the Palestinian Authority. In 2007, Hamas violently seized Gaza in a blood-soaked coup against the PA. Lapid also failed to address the fact that international oversight in Gaza has failed on several occasions due to Hamas intransigence, and that the terror group has a history of breaking its promises to maintain calm.
Why should things be different this time? Israeli leaders like Yair Lapid might believe that Hamas, like the PLO before it, is growing more pragmatic after years of governing a territory. Either that, or they feel that something needs to be done, and there’s no harm in again trying to offer a carrot.
It remains to be seen whether or not Lapid will take a different approach to Abbas and the PA leadership when he assumes the role of prime minister on August 27, 2023.