Gantz in Saudi Interview: Yerushalayim Has Room for Palestinian Capital

YERUSHALAYIM -
Defense Minister and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)

In a rare interview to Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, published Thursday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz says that he does not envision “full peace” in the Middle East without a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When asked about the status of Yerushalayim, Gantz was quoted as saying, “Yerushalayim must remain united, but it will include a place for a Palestinian capital. It is a very big city and full of places sacred to us all.”

Gantz also said in the interview, “The process with the Arab world is a true, great opportunity. Because I want to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, I am sure that without them, there will be no full, comprehensive peace. I call on them to cooperate with me and with the Arab partner states so that they will have a place of honor in the new peace process.”

When Gantz was asked if he is willing to “pay the price for peace,” and if it is possible to discuss “an end to the occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, with an exchange of territories and a solution to all the core issues of the conflict, such as Yerushalayim and right of return for Palestinian refugees,” or whether the “old thinking” was still in place, Gantz replied that “the Palestinians want and deserve an entity in which they will live independently.”

When asked if he was referring to a state, Gantz says, “Let them call it what they want – a state or an empire. They have a right to feel independent and have their own capital and a solution to all the issues. We must speak in a new, contemporary language about ways to a solution, not stick to the traditional discourse.

“From our part, we want to separate from them and their promises of our security. If we can agree on security issues, the political solution will come easily. We must not only solve the problems, but also cooperate fully on the economy, science, technology, education and everything. This is a historic opportunity,” he said.

When asked about future borders, Gantz said that Israel needs the Jordan Valley to ensure its own security, but would not necessarily declare sovereignty in 30% of the territory.

“We opposed the annexation plan from the beginning,” he said, referring to his party, “before the United Arab Emirates made its demand and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to freeze it. We opposed regulating settlement outposts. We want a Palestinian entity to have an appropriate geographic size that will allow a comfortable life without obstacles.

“What we are demanding is security. We need strategic points for security. Of course, we can talk about an exchange of territories, although I don’t see what and where. We are saying that the 1967 borders will not be reinstated. But there is always the possibility of an interim agreement. What is important is to keep the process alive,” Gantz said in the interview, which ran in Arabic.