03:08 GMT29 July 2021
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    Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the start of the cabinet meeting on Sunday said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Washington aim to start working towards establishing a Palestinian state immediately after the 9 April election in the country.

    Naftali Bennett, a co-chairman of the Israeli New Right party (Hebrew: HaYamin HaHadash Party), said that US President Donald Trump and Netanyahu will present a plan to establish a Palestinian state on 90 per cent of the area, including the division of Jerusalem.

    According to Bennet, a new electoral alliance called Kahol Lavan would enter the Knesset as a “national peace government” and “the only way to stop this is with a strong, true right-wing.”

    Radio Sputnik discussed this with Benny Miller, a professor of International Relations at the School of Political Sciences at the University of Haifa.

    Sputnik: Now, Israel’s education minister said that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mr Trump were planning to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and divide Jerusalem. How likely is that to happen?

    Benny Miller: I think that Minister Bennett [said this] as part of the campaign propaganda, in warfare, in the right-wing bloc, because among the right-wing bloc, people, I mean the delegation can be supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. So, it seems there is going to be a very tough contest between Bennett and the new right-wing, and Netanyahu and the Likud [Party].

    That is probably the motivation behind Bennett’s statement. However, [there is] probably going to be some Trump’s peace plan that we have been waiting for since the inauguration two years ago. There is some peace plan probably calling for the establishment of some kind of Palestinian state. The question is how do you define a state? Will it be a fully sovereign state like the regular kind of state in the international system that has full control over its own territory, territorial integrity and full control of security in the state? Or will it be a de-militarised state without territorial integrity along various parts of their each territory and actually Israeli security control of the while area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean? Probably that is what Netanyahu is aiming at. But what Netanyahu probably is planning as that the first “no” will come from Abu Mazen, from the Palestinian authority, from the [PLO], from the Palestinian side.

    So he will [have] to be the one who controls President Trump because he will feel, that would feel very uncomfortable confronting President Trump because President Trump supposedly is a good friend of Israel, particularly of Netanyahu. So it will be unlike with President Obama, the predecessor of President Trump, with whom it was relatively simple for Netanyahu to confront and to delay and to obstruct his peace plans. It will be more difficult with Trump, so he probably will rely on the Palestinians to do the hard work, the hard lifting of denial and rejection of the peace plan. But other question that we still don’t know, I mean we have to know what will be the precise outcome of the election. And that has been up in the air because of this new bloc of Ganz and Lapid, this kind of middle-of-the-road-type of a political party.

    READ MORE: Netanyahu's Party Loses Lead in Election Campaign for 1st Time — Polls

    It depends… maybe they will get the upper hand in the election and then Netanyahu will be the junior partner. Supposedly, that is a potential coalition. […] right-wing coalition led by Netanyahu who probably will be more [for a] hard-line coalition. And the second mystery and the puzzle is what is going to be the outcome of the investigation of the Israeli prosecution against Netanyahu. And probably at the end of this week or maybe the beginning of next week, the Attorney General of Israel will state at the legal situation, of course, I mean the persecution. There will be an indictment; and what kind of indictment against Netanyahu, including potentially for taking bribes, which might have an effect both on the outcome of the election as well as on Netanyahu’s behaviour and Netanyahu’s decision.

    So this is a very important element in the campaign as well as in the post-election stage. That is really a bit unknown. Maybe, you know, we have the precedence of Ariel Sharon, the former prime minister, who had also all kind of investigations by the state prosecutors against him and then suddenly he moved to the left, to a more […] position including this engagement on the Gaza Strip in 2005. Some people make the connection that he became more moderate because of this investigation against him by the Israeli prosecutors. So, maybe that will also happen with Netanyahu. Or the opposite, maybe he will try to rally his right-wing, his nationalist bloc against the state and against the state institution or the legal investigation and so on by rallying them to the flag of nationalism, of protection of Israel, and against concession and so on.

    So, there are a lot of questions that are involved here. Definitely, the bottom line is that Netanyahu, [if] he is elected as prime minister, he will try to be in good terms with President Trump. So, that means that he will try not to say “no”, at least not at the very beginning to Trump’s peace plan and to leave it to the Palestinians. But we have to see. Thus far, we cannot know what President Trump and more precisely the peace team has in mind about the precise nature of this peace plan. It is still up in the air. Will it support a full-blown Palestinian state or will they make more can kind of an economic peace or more kind of a symbolic concession maybe to the Palestinians but not really, the question of Jerusalem, obviously settlements right of return, you know, the more rights for Palestinian refugees. What all of about that? So, we have quite an agenda there regarding the potential peace plan. And it is, you know, will be tough.

    Sputnik: Professor, how do you assess Mr Netanyahu’s chances of being indicted?

    Benny Miller: As it seems right now, he is probably going to be indicted. The big question, will it be for more minor charges or will it be for taking bribes? If it is going to be for more serious charges of taking bribes then it might have some effect on the electorate. Maybe not major because his bloc of supporters probably going to adhere and blame the state and the left-wing and the media and so on, and so on [for] inventing all kinds of allegations against Netanyahu. But maybe it will let some centrist or maybe some soft right-wingers that will move to the Ganz-Lapid party, and then it might have a real effect on the outcomes of the elections that they will win and Netanyahu maybe at best will be their junior partner or will be out of the coalition. But anyway, maybe then after the election, he will be busy with all the prosecution and the indictment and all of that, which is quite time consuming and money consuming. And all of that might be a major problem for him.

    Sputnik: Professor, Mr Netanyahu enjoys support from right-wing parties. What reaction can we expect from them if this type of deal is announced?

    Benny Miller: You know, the right-wing, it depends. I mean if this is the hard right-wing like [Naftali] Bennett and [Ayelet] Shaked, the New Right party. And some of the religious parties will be vehemently against any major concession, any considerable, any serious concessions in the West Bank, and they are completely supportive of the continuation of the settlement project and making no concessions about the settlement. However, more post-right-wing will probably take notice of President Trump’s peace plan if it indeed calls for Israeli concession, Israeli withdrawal in the abandonment of some settlements at least. First of all, because Israel is heavily dependent on America, on the United States, for security and for many other purposes. Secondly, President Trump is considered to be a good friend of Israel. I mean whom they can turn to. The Democratic Party now, the opposition to Trump, is much more critical of Israel, especially now with the new generation of left-wing socialist, the progressive House members from the Democratic Party, who are quite critical of Israel.

    So, probably, it will be very difficult for Israel to reject, to turn down Trump’s peace plan. Again, it could be that the Palestinians will do this hard lifting and won’t accept the peace plan and then Israel will be to blame. But if the Palestinians would be more moderate and more flexible, it would be very hard to reject. A part of the really extreme right to reject the peace plan by President Trump then we won’t [have] much choice. Maybe we will do some manoeuvring and some delays and some back controls and all of that, but the bottom line is if the Palestinians show moderation and President Trump really puts forward a meaningful peace plan, it would be hard for most of the Israeli political men to turn it down.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, US, Israel
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