Yerushalayim (Andrew Friedman/TPS) – Right-wing Israelis and the settlement camp celebrated US President Donald Trump’s commitment to re-think US policy vis-à-vis the Israel-Palestinian peace process, while left-wing politicians accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of abandoning Israel’s national interest for the benefit of domestic politics.
Looking more relaxed than he has been in many months, Netanyahu praised the new administration for its aggressive stance towards Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and took a parting shot at former US President Barack Obama, calling the change in policy “long overdue.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said the visit marked the end of the two-state vision for the land of Israel and noted that two Palestinian states already exist: Gaza and Jordan.
“I congratulate the Prime Minister for making the right decision, showing leadership and courage, and fortifying Israel’s security and sovereignty. Now we must look ahead and shape a new strategic approach in light of the new reality,” Bennett said.
The National Union faction of Bennet’s Jewish Home party added a call to Netanyahu to mark the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War with a declaration of sovereignty and a massive building program in Yehudah and Shomron.
“We expect the prime minister, upon returning to Israel to implement the things he and President Trump talked about. [We expect] massive building of transportation infrastructure, industrial zones, cities, and settlements for the benefit of all Israelis,” they said.
On the other side of the aisle, voices were less enthusiastic. MK Dr. Nachman Shai, chairman of the US-Israel Friendship Lobby, said the cordial visit was an indication of Netanyahu’s cowing to right-wing elements in his coalition instead of speaking to Israel’s national interest.
“Every once-in-a-while, the laughing faces of Minister Bennett and Netanyahu’s other coalition partners peeks out from behind the prime minister’s back,” Shai said. “The prime minister bowed to right-wing pressure and refrained from mentioning the two-state solution. Netanyahu knows, better than anyone in the White House, the this is the only acceptable solution that will preserve a Jewish and democratic Israel.”
Shai also noted President Trump’s repeated statements that Israel must be prepared to make concessions, and criticized Netanyahu for refusing to answer those demands.
“[The two-state solution] is first-and-foremost in the interest of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Once again, Netanyahu has proved that Israel has no foreign policy, only domestic policy,” Shai said.
In addition, MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) cautioned the settlement movement against premature celebrations, criticizing Netanyahu for lacking a plan to maintain security, while Meretz Party Chairwoman Zahava Gal-on said the end of the two-state solution would “guarantee” that Israel becomes an “apartheid state.”