update deskIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Lapid: Netanyahu should consider Palestinian state as part of Saudi deal

"This will solve The Hague [problem] for us and the [issue of] the 'day after' in Gaza‚ and it will help us mobilize the Saudis to apply pressure regarding the issue of the hostages," said the opposition leader.

Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, meets with Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid in Tel Aviv on Feb. 8, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, meets with Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid in Tel Aviv on Feb. 8, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

The Netanyahu government should agree to discuss a Palestinian state as part of normalization talks with Saudi Arabia, opposition leader Yair Lapid stated on Tuesday.

“Netanyahu should announce that he has entered into negotiations with the Saudis, including the Palestinian component,” he told Army Radio.

“The Palestinian Authority should only partake in the civil component in Gaza,” Lapid said. “We need a model like Areas A and B [of Judea and Samaria]; the Israel Defense Forces enters and operates there whenever it wants.”

The Yesh Atid Party leader continued, “We should not let Abu Mazen [P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas] handle the security issue—but why should we care that they clean the sidewalks and not us?”

If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to agree to consider a pathway to a Palestinian state in the context of the Saudi diplomatic agreement, it would help solve several problems in one stroke, he continued.

“In The Hague, they will not prosecute a prime minister in the middle of a historic peace process. This will solve The Hague [problem] for us and the [issue of] the ‘day after’ in Gaza‚ and it will help us mobilize the Saudis to apply pressure regarding the issue of the hostages,” he said.

On Monday, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which is based in The Hague, announced his intent to seek arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

In response to the move, Lapid repeated his call for Benny Gantz and his National Unity Party to exit Netanyahu’s wartime coalition.

“He [Gantz] needs to leave the government today; otherwise he is fully complicit in its failure,” Lapid tweeted, vowing to make a “supreme effort to overthrow this terrible government as soon as possible.”

“The State of Israel cannot afford to give Netanyahu the [Knesset’s] summer session, which would allow him to reach the winter session. Can you imagine him still being the prime minister on the seventh of October? It’s a chilling thought,” wrote the Yesh Atid Party leader.

The Knesset’s summer session got underway on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly decided to normalize relations with the Jewish state and is debating the timing of the announcement. Officials in Riyadh were said to be discussing whether to make the move in the coming weeks or after the U.S. presidential election this November.

While the Biden administration has been pushing to connect a pathway to a Palestinian state as part of the Saudis joining the Abraham Accords, it was reported in April that the kingdom may only demand guarantees on progress towards that goal in return for establishing ties with Israel.

In February, the Saudi Foreign Ministry insisted that the kingdom would not agree to relations with Jerusalem until there is a Palestinian state, an end to the war against Hamas and a full military withdrawal from Gaza.

Gantz’s party opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state in exchange for normalization of relations with the Saudis, minister-without-portfolio Yehiel Tropper told Army Radio earlier this week.

The Israeli government is opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state given the P.A.’s overt support for terrorism. Recent polling shows a majority of Israeli citizens are also united against Palestinian statehood, even if it might bring about diplomatic ties with Riyadh.

Two weeks after Hamas slaughtered 1,200 people in southern Israel on Oct. 7 of last year, Lapid declared that the P.A. should be given control over the Gaza Strip after the terrorist organization is destroyed. Hamas ousted Abbas’s P.A. from Gaza in a bloody 2007 coup.

However, some two months later, the opposition leader voiced objections to giving Ramallah security control over Gaza following the conclusion of the military operation, saying that “no one on earth thinks that Gaza should be handed over to Abu Mazen the day after the war.”

On Jan. 27, Abbas’s spokesman told Al Arabiya television that the P.A. is prepared to hand over the reins to Hamas after the conflict. Ramallah is “prepared to hold general elections, and if Hamas wins, the president will hand over the Authority,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh.

According to Palestinian polls, 89% of Palestinians support establishing a government that includes or is led by Hamas. Only around 8.5% said they favor an authority controlled exclusively by Abbas’s Fatah faction.

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