“We need more Irish in Ramallah,” Likud MK Uzi Dayan told Labor-Gesher candidate Hilik Bar sharply on Wednesday, after the latter referenced the Good Friday Agreement of the Irish peace process as a model for conflict resolution.
“What we need are leaders like Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair,” Bar shot back at Dayan in reference to the British and Irish leaders who signed the deal.
The two politicians were, unusually for this election and that before it, discussing the much-ignored conflict with the Palestinians and the mutual positions of their parties in an open discussion with the press organized by the Middle East Forum.
But the critical questions for both figures remained unanswered, as they have done for their respective parties over the last quarter century: how it will be possible to keep hold of territories where large numbers of Palestinians are resident without negatively impacting Israel’s democratic values, and at the same time how such territories could be given up without damaging Israel’s security.
Dayan sought to have his cake and eat it, adamant that the Palestinians have destroyed the peace process and backing the idea of annexing parts of the West Bank, saying Israel should start by annexing the Jordan Valley for security purposes and for the needs of an expanding Israeli population.
“We don’t have a partner for peace,” said Dayan. “I am not satisfied with it but we don’t have a partner for peace in the Middle East.”
“There is no one to make a real peace agreement, and let’s say the truth, we can do without it,” he added.
But at the same time, he insisted that a one-state solution was not desirable and that Israel should preserve its identity as a “Jewish and democratic state,” a phrase often used by advocates of political separation from the Palestinians, and said that Israel should not “shut the door on a peace deal.”
Bar, on the other end of the political spectrum, argued that the only way to truly defeat the Palestinians as an enemy was through a diplomatic agreement with them, asserting that former prime minister Menachem Begin had eliminated Egypt’s historic threat to the State of Israel through diplomacy.
“The most efficient weapon against Israel’s worst enemies such as Egypt, wasn’t more sophisticated tanks and F-16s, it was the peace agreement which ended it as an enemy,” he contended.
Dayan argued, however, that annexing settlements and territory, such as the Jordan Valley, was now more viable than ever given the extremely affable relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump
“Annexation is possible now,” he said. “The stars are aligned. We can even achieve a silent agreement to it in the Arab world and the US.
“We should not exclude unilateralism, it can work very well. If we were waiting for a deal with Gaza we would still be waiting, sometimes there is no possibility for agreement.”
Bar argued the reverse.
He said that Israeli should use the “alignment of the stars” of Trump’s support and the relatively benign position of Russian President Vladimir Putin “to cut a deal which is good for Israel,” instead of facing a potentially more hostile US administration in the future.
“Make the deal now when stars are shining for our side, be brave,” he urged.
Asked why Israeli would risk further territorial concessions after the Gaza disengagement and the rockets that have rained down on southern Israel and beyond ever since, Bar sought to blame the consequences on the unilateral nature of the disengagement.
“I am totally against any unilateral action that does not demand something from my enemy,” said Bar, saying that a mutual comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians should include security cooperation with the US, UN, EU and moderate Arab states.
Bar said that as opposed to the disengagement, the only way to resolve the conflict was through a mutual agreement stipulating “an end to mutual claims and final status” although he said that an interim stage to such an agreement could be necessary.
Bar said specifically that Israel needed to maintain control of the Jordan Valley bordering Jordan for at least “30 or 40 years,” and that if normalization with the Palestinians took place in the intervening period, joint control could be considered afterwards.
“Even the left doesn’t agree to a Palestinian state which isn’t fully demilitarized,” he said.
The debate over the Israel-Palestinian conflict has been largely absent from the current election campaign, with even the main opposition party reluctant to discuss it. Wednesday’s debate underlined the necessity of the discussion, as the difficulties for both sides’ positions remain unanswered.
(Source: Jerusalem Post )