Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett continued their back-and-forth on the latter’s demand to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
“My consistent and unequivocal position is that the US Embassy should move to Jerusalem, as should other embassies,” Netanyahu said during a Likud party meeting in response to Bennett’s calls that he presses the matter during US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel next week.
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“I presented my position in meetings with US and world leaders, with the diplomatic staff in Israel, and lately to the Likud party as well,” the prime minister added.
“Not only is moving the embassy not going to hurt the peace process, quite the contrary. It will advance it by righting a historical wrong and shatter the Palestinian illusion that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel,” Netanyahu went on to say.
“This is my position, it is clear to all, it hasn’t changed, and it will not change,” he clarified and then added in an apparent dig at Bennett, “I’m glad to hear other parties are adopting the Likud’s line on the issue. That’s very good, keep it up.”
Bennett and his Bayit Yehudi party are pushing to set the narrative for Trump’s visit to Israel on May 22.
On Saturday night, Bennett demanded Netanyahu to renege on his 2009 Bar Ilan speech, in which the prime minister endorsed the two-state solution.
“The Bar Illan speech was from the Obama era. The speech and agreement to establish a Palestinian state brought boycotts on us, terror and a serious demographic threat and now is the time to announce its annulment,” Bennett declared.
He further warned that Israel’s failure to revise its policies regarding the peace process with the Palestinians could result in outside nations determining its fate.
Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party responded to Bennett’s statements, accusing him of damaging the right-wing camp. “Bennett’s remarks are an example of self-flagellation this time from the right. The boycotts against Israel stem from a fundamental opposition to the Jewish state and not from anything else,” the statement read. “Prime Minister Netanyahu is the one who has fought for acceptance of the Jewish state in the world, as we hear from President Trump.”
Bennett responded to the criticism from the Likud party in a letter to his own party members on Monday, saying that “the prime minister will work to paint this argument as personal. It’s not personal.”
The education minister criticized the Likud party’s statement, which raised claims against his work as a minister, saying “this entire thing is disgusting and contemptible… it’s inappropriate, certainly for a prime minister in Israel.”
He rejected the Likud’s accusations that he was not doing anything to combat incitement in east Jerusalem schools, saying “In the past two years, we’ve done more than the Likud has done in 40 years. Principals who incited were fired, a school was closed down, teachers who incited were also fired. Most importantly, I’ve worked on strengthening Israeli studies in the east of the capital in a way never before done.”
He also prepared party members for the battles ahead. “In the coming days, we’ll be required to remain steadfast in the face of expected international pressures,” Bennett wrote. “If we don’t stand strong, we know no one else will.”
Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid joined Bennett’s call on Monday, saying he was “expecting to hear the prime minister call on the American president to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem without delay.”
By Ynet News