The government met Sunday for the first time since the introduction of the “deal of the century” peace plan – and as pundits had predicted, the session was a stormy one, as Jewish Home ministers came in for further criticism by the Likud for their demands that the cabinet approve sovereignty for areas in Yehudah and Shomron, according to Channel 12 reporter Amit Segal.
The meeting discussed a number of topics, including the uptick in violence among Arabs in the wake of the plan. Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel was not looking for a fight with Hamas, but would attack the terror group if it did not stop firing rockets and dispatching terror balloon clusters at Israel. Repeating comments he made on a visit to soldiers at the Gaza front earlier Sunday, Bennett said that “the rash behavior of Hamas is bringing us closer to a destructive action against them. We will not announce where or when this action will take place. Hamas has two choices – choose life and prosper, or choose terror and pay a heavy price.”
The government also authorized NIS 35 million for defenses in Ashkelon, which has been a primary target of Gaza terrorists. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said “we will not allow any violence against Israelis from Gaza. Just a few weeks ago we eliminated top Islamic Jihad terrorists, and I would recommend that Islamic Jihad and Hamas both refresh their memories about that incident. I will not specify all the plans we have, but we are prepared for a major action against Gaza terror groups,” he said.
But the question of sovereignty was the one that set off shouts and recriminations, Segal reported. Earlier, the Likud had criticized Bennett’s insistence that the cabinet vote on sovereignty to be implemented before the elections at a cabinet meeting. Netanyahu was quoted as saying that “I have been working on annexation of area of Yehuda and Shomron for a long time. I hope to achieve that when the mapping process is completed. I would recommend everyone not get too concerned over claims that I failed to fulfill my promise.”
Over protests by Yemina ministers, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin shot back that bringing the plan to a government discussion was a bad idea. “We worked very hard not to have to bring the plan to a cabinet vote,” which would entail approval of the entire plan. “We want to make it clear that we do not need a cabinet vote to impose sovereignty. Your insistence on bringing it up for a vote here is causing great damage and endangering the entire process.”
One reason for that is that the plan entails recognition of a Palestinian state, and minister Tzippy Hotovely, Ze’ev Elkin and Betzalel Smotrich all said that they would not accept the plan if it entailed such recognition. In response, Netanyahu said “we are not required to accept all parts of the plan, or a Palestinian state. The Americans are not demanding that from us,” Segal quoted Netanyahu as saying.