Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is receptive to the idea of holding a Middle East peace conference, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said.
The initiative envisions a gathering of Israel, the Palestinians and moderate Arab states aimed at finding solutions to the major issues.
“I discussed it with the prime minister and brought it up at the cabinet meeting and there was a general feeling that this is a good idea,” Lapid said. “The prime minister was positive about the conference and I am optimistic about advancing the idea.”
Lapid said he had also broached the idea with German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier and that he planned to bring it to a meeting next week with Norwegian foreign minister Borge Brende, who will chair a conference on rebuilding the Gaza Strip next month, The Jerusalem Post reported.
“We cannot and will not let this ceasefire be a countdown to the next round of fighting,” Lapid said. “If we don’t take diplomatic initiatives, this is exactly what will happen. At that conference the countries of the world will commit aid to rebuild and rehabilitate Gaza. Israel must act before the conference or Gaza will get support and Israel will get nothing.”
Lapid stipulated that Gaza must be demilitarized to achieve the goal of bringing quiet to the residents of southern Israel.
“We fought an enemy with a value system opposed to our own,” he said. “We sanctify life. They sanctify death. They put their children in harm’s way in a sick attempt for propaganda. Hamas knows the price they paid and they know the price they will pay if they attack again.”
Also on Sunday, Palestinian sources told the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat that the Cairo ceasefire talks will resume sometime in the middle of this week.
Working on a month-long timetable, the Egyptian-mediated talks are expected to produce agreements on a range of issues, including the Hamas demand for an airport and a seaport in Gaza, as well as the return of the bodies of IDF troops killed in action in Gaza, including Hadar Goldin and Shaul Oron.
The report in Asharq al-Awsat was not confirmed, and there is no mention of whether Israeli negotiators will take part.