Exclusive: Netanyahu says don’t get ‘hung up’ on peace with Palestinians first

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said people may be “disconnected” about peace talks with the Palestinians, took a different approach in an interview with Jack Tapper on Tuesday.

“When the Arab-Israeli conflict is effectively over, I think we will go back to the Palestinians and have a workable peace with the Palestinians,” he said.

Asked by Tapper about the Biden administration’s concerns that settlements in the occupied West Bank could exacerbate tensions, Netanyahu pointed to the success of the Trump-era Abraham Accords, which improved relations between Israel and several Arab countries. Normalized.

“I went around them (the Palestinians), I went directly to the Arab states and forged a new concept of peace… I signed four historic peace agreements, the Abraham Accords, the peace agreements of all my predecessors in the 1970s. Twice the number. Years added.”

His comments come at a tense moment for Israel. Palestinians and Israelis have experienced horrific bloodshed over the past week, and fears are growing that the situation will spiral out of control. Last Thursday was the deadliest day for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in nearly two years, after Friday night’s shooting near a Jerusalem synagogue – which Israel described as its worst terror attack in recent years. One of the declared.

The Biden administration has advocated a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but there has been little movement and apparently little active effort toward that goal by Netanyahu or Palestinian leaders.

Even the Abraham Accords have done little to moderate Israel’s stance toward the Palestinians, analysts say. When asked what concessions Israel would make to the Palestinian territories, Netanyahu replied: “Well, I’m certainly open to giving them all the powers they need to govern themselves. But there is no power that can threaten (us) and that means Israel must fulfill its security responsibility.

There are hopes that US Secretary of State Anthony Blanken’s visit to Israel and the West Bank this week will help defuse rising tensions.

But when it comes to Israeli settlements, the two administrations seem to be on opposite sides of the coin. Netanyahu vowed this week that Israel would “fortify” settlements in response to shooting attacks in Jerusalem, something Blanken warned against on Tuesday.

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Tapper challenged Netanyahu over his controversial proposal, which has sparked widespread protests.

When asked about US concerns that the expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land could affect the prospects for peace, Netanyahu said: “Well, I completely disagree.”

Biden and Netanyahu have a complicated relationship, particularly on Iran. Netanyahu clashed with former US President Barack Obama over negotiations with the Palestinians, then more openly over the Iran nuclear deal – which Biden would like to re-enter.

Netanyahu explained his position on Iran to Tapper, saying, “If you have rogue regimes that intend to get nuclear weapons, you can sign 100 agreements with them, It’s no use.”

“I think the only way to prevent or prevent you from acquiring nuclear weapons is a combination of economic sanctions, but most importantly, a credible military threat,” he said.

Iran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and has formally halted its weapons program, but U.S. officials have warned that Iran’s uranium enrichment activities are in violation of the failed 2015 nuclear deal. The parameters have gone way beyond that since former US President Trump stepped away from it. Last week, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned that Tehran had amassed enough material for “multiple nuclear weapons” and called for a resumption of diplomatic efforts to prevent such a scenario.

Another point of contention among US allies is Israel’s conflicting stance on Ukraine. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Israel has been conducting a diplomatic balancing act in relations with Moscow.

Although it has officially condemned the attack and regularly sends aid to Ukraine, Israel has yet to send weapons to Ukraine, and has been criticized for not being more forceful in its criticism of Russia. has been made.

Israel does not want to disturb Russia when the Israeli air force is trying to hit targets across the border in Syria. Israel has launched hundreds of strikes against its neighbor in recent years, mostly aimed at disrupting Iran’s supply of precision-guided missile technology to Hezbollah.

Netanyahu added that Israel is “taking action against some weapons production” in Iran, referring to the complex scenario. However, he refused to confirm or deny whether Israel was behind drone attacks on a military plant in the central Iranian city of Isfahan over the weekend.

“I never talk about specific actions… and every time there’s an explosion in the Middle East, Israel is blamed or held responsible – sometimes it’s us, sometimes it’s not us.”

The wide-ranging interview touched on concerns about Netanyahu’s cabinet, described as the most rightist and religious in the country’s history, which is already facing internal tensions and widespread public protests.

Netanyahu’s governing coalition relies on the support of a number of nationalist political figures who were once on the fringes of Israeli politics.

Netanyahu dismissed concerns about the provocative statements and actions of these members, saying: “I have both hands on the wheel.”

Pressing on some of his more extreme statements – including reports that Finance Minister Bezalel Smutrich described himself as a “fascist homophobe” – Netanyahu said: “Well, very People say a lot when they are not in power. When they come to power, they themselves become angry. And that’s certainly the case here.”

Netanyahu accused critics of hypocrisy and did not hold a similar lens against his predecessors, adding: “Look, I’m controlling the government, and I’m responsible for its policies, and the policies are sensible. , and are, and will continue to be, responsible.”

The six-time prime minister also rejected criticism of his government’s push for judicial reform, allowing parliament (and ruling parties) to overturn Supreme Court decisions, appoint judges, and hire legal advisers from ministries. will give the ability to remove those who have legal counsel. is binding.

It comes after he was forced to sack key ally Arya Deri from his ministerial posts after the High Court ruled that it was unconscionable to appoint the Shas party leader to government posts because of his criminal convictions. .

Netanyahu told Tapper that he believed the changes would “strengthen democracy.”

His country has seen ongoing protests against judicial reform, with tens of thousands of Israelis taking to the streets in January.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu faces charges in three separate cases in a long-running corruption case that has damaged him politically. He has repeatedly denied all allegations against him, calling the trial a “witch hunt”.

When asked if there was any truth to the claim that Netanyahu was trying to overrule the judiciary for his own interests, he said it was false. None of the reforms we are talking about have anything to do with my trial.

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