Minister Bennett to PM Netanyahu: Don’t Discuss Two-State Solution at Washington Meetings

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R) seen with Minister of Education Naftali Bennett in the Knesset. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The main topic of Sunday’s cabinet meeting is expected to be Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s trip to the United States this week, and the tone of the discussion is expected to be especially sharp – as the right-wing members of the coalition, both within the Likud and in other parties, demand that Netanyahu put forth an aggressive Israeli position regarding construction in Yehudah and Shomron, possible annexation of Area C, and other issues.

The expected spirit of the meeting was set Saturday night by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who wrote in a social media post that “if in the statement issued by the prime minister and the president after their meeting the words ‘two-state solution’ appears, we will have a very difficult time in the coming years. The land will shake. If Israel chooses to allow the establishment of a Palestine during this era, there will be no turning back. Fifty years of Jewish settlement in Yehudah and Shomron will be endangered. Those two words – ‘Palestinian state’ – would be a national and historic disaster. We cannot allow them to be said.”

Given the prospect that Bennett will publicly demand that Netanyahu state that he will not discuss the two-state solution, advisors to the prime minister told Channel 10 Motzoei Shabbos that Bennett “is not the boss here. Comments like these have the potential of damaging the talks.”

Speaking on Israel Radio Sunday, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz slammed Bennett, saying that comments such as the ones he made are “irresponsible, and are evidence of a lack of understanding on the process of security discussions. Such comments are likely to lead to conflict that no one is interested in.”

That Bennett, who leads what Katz called “a small party” was willing to risk that conflict, is nothing less than “scandalous,” he added. “He is trying to expand the membership and support of his party at the expense of Israel’s’ national interests.”

In response, Jewish Home, the party headed by Bennett, said in a statement that “Katz has been running a campaign to replace Netanyahu, and has, among other things, set up an election campaign that plans to run against the Prime Minister [in the Likud primaries]. He has been trying to launch this campaign via attacks against other ministers. We would all be better off if he would turn his attention to doing his job, like clearing up the never-ending traffic jams on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road and to the endless road accidents in the country, instead of trying to drag Jewish Home into his personal battle with Netanyahu.”

Likely at the top of Netanyahu’s agenda will be what to do about Iran. Weekend reports said that Netanyahu had several ideas he planned to share with President Trump, given the President’s apparent willingness to confront Tehran on its violations of the nuclear treaty signed with the Obama administration.

Besides meeting with President Trump, Netanyahu will meet with Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Republican Chairman of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Democratic Party head Chuck Schumer and other political leaders. Sarah Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s wife, will meet with First Lady Melania Trump.

Meanwhile, Zionist Camp MK Erel Margalit said Sunday that he would seek an injunction against Netanyahu’s leaving Israel to visit President Trump. According to Margalit, the trip will afford Netanyahu an opportunity to contact individuals who are being questioned about the various scandals Netanyahu is being questioned regarding. Margalit said that he planned to file a request with the State Attorney’s Office to prevent Netanyahu from traveling, “as there is a strong possibility that the investigations will be compromised” by the prime minister, who will have the “opportunity to tamper with witness testimony and other evidence,” he told Army Radio, as not only is Netanyahu’s wife Sarah accompanying him, but his son Yair, who is also a potential suspect in some of the cases, will be in the U.S. as well. “That entire family is in very big trouble, it seems to me,” said Margalit.