Israel does not want to “manage conflict” with Palestinians

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The Israeli government will not discuss the establishment of a Palestinian state under current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett or Yair Lapid if he takes office under a rotation agreement, said Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.

In an exclusive interview with The nationalsaid Ms. Shaked that there is a consensus among the right, left and centrist parties that sit together in a ruling coalition not to address an issue that could cause internal division – including resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“The current situation is the best for everyone,” said Shaked during her visit to Abu Dhabi on Monday.

Ms. Shaked, one of the most influential politicians in Israel and the lynchpin of the current government, does not want to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians.

“It’s better to leave it that way,” said Ms. Shaked, 45, who served as Attorney General between 2015 and 2019.

“We believe in economic peace to improve the lives of the Palestinians and create common industrial zones. But definitely not a state with an army. “

The mixed government, which includes an Arab party for the first time, was formed in June after political parties formed a coalition that ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s twelve-year term as prime minister.

The parties had little in common other than a desire to oust Netanyahu. Under the coalition agreement, Mr Bennett is Prime Minister for two years, after which he is to be replaced by Mr Lapid.

The daughter of an Iranian-born Iraqi father, Ms. Shaked is a key ally of Mr. Bennett, who leads the ultra-nationalist Yamina (Right) party, which advocates Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Ms. Shaked refuses to call the settlements illegal but instead refers to it as a “controversial area”. She called the activists behind the boycott divestments sanctions against Israel “hypocrites”.

“They are anti-Semitic because they are against the existence of Israel. BDS is a new form of anti-Semitism, ”she said.

The movement calls on Israel to withdraw from the territories it has occupied since the 1967 war, to dismantle the wall that separated Israel from parts of the occupied West Bank before 1967 and to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

No two-state solution

Ms. Shaked was open about her strong opposition to the concept of a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. She said Israel learned invaluable lessons from its past conflicts.

“We know firsthand that any territory we withdraw will become a terrorist organization. It happened in southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah is ruled and funded by Iran and has aimed thousands of missiles at Israel, ”she said.

“When we pulled out of Gaza, people said it was another Monaco – but we know what happened there, Hamas took over the city and turned it into a terrorist state. We will not repeat this experiment again. “

Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday as the second top Israeli official since the new government took office.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also met Abbas in August at his headquarters in the West Bank for the first high-level personal talks in over a decade.

But for Ms. Shaked, the Palestinian leader is not a partner for a real peace deal.

“Mahmoud Abbas did not hold elections because he is afraid of losing to Hamas. If there are elections … Hamas will take over, ”said Ms. Shaked.

Her right-wing Yamina Alliance believes the Jewish people have legal, historical, and moral rights to the West Bank.

Describing her country’s agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan to normalize relations as a “model” for others, Ms. Shaked said she expected more Arab and Muslim countries to follow suit.

“Everyone has seen the benefits of peace [between the UAE and Israel]; mainly at the economic, tourist and technological level, ”she said.

Increase in gang violence

Ms. Shaked said she was alarmed by the surge in violence within the Israeli Arab communities in the country.

Official Israeli data shows that many of the record killings are concentrated in cities with large Arab populations.

“This is one of the topics I discussed during my visit here in Abu Dhabi. There was a cabinet meeting prior to my visit and we decided to make this issue a top priority and provide the necessary resources to stem the rise in crime in Israeli cities with large Arab populations, ”said Ms. Shaked. “Abu Dhabi is one of the safest cities in the world and I am sure we can learn from each other.”

Ms. Shaked said readily available weapons were a key factor in the rise in violence, in which 96 Israeli Arabs have died since early 2021.

She said that around 400,000 illegal weapons are in the hands of Israeli-Arab gangs.

“There is a serious problem of criminalization in Israeli cities with large Arab populations. It is an Israeli Arab versus Israeli Arab phenomenon. There are gangs, drug dealers and illegal weapons, including those that are bought as toys from online stores like Amazon and then improvised into real weapons. Gangs also steal weapons from the military, ”she said.

In the last cabinet meeting on Sunday, the Israeli government decided to use the Shin Bet domestic secret service to fight the crime wave.

Ms. Shaked admitted that more needs to be done.

“We invest a lot in the army, invest in the Mossad and have great resources for enemies outside our borders, but apparently we haven’t done our best to strengthen our police force in fighting these gangs,” she said.

Ms. Shaked said the rise in murders in Israeli Arab communities was largely due to criminal gangs benefiting from reduced law enforcement budgets. She said the cabinet decided to allocate NIS 2.5 billion ($ 770 million) to fight crime.

epa07176691 Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speak during a press conference in the Israeli Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem, November 19, 2018. According to media reports, the Netanyahu government will not go to early elections after Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked from the Jewish Home Party had decided not to leave the coalition.  The elections are due to take place in November 2019.  EPA / ABIR SULTAN

The surge in violence has sparked a social media campaign in recent weeks, with the hashtag #Arab_lives_matter trending on Twitter, as activists accused the government of neglecting Israel’s Arab communities for decades.

Israeli Arabs make up about 20 percent of the country’s 9 million people.

Shaked denied the allegation that Arabs in Israel had become second-class citizens.

The former Justice Minister caused controversy in 2019 when she released a provocative campaign video before the elections in which she appeared in a false advertisement for a perfume called “Fascism”.

“It smells like democracy to me,” she says in the video.

She laughed heartily when asked how a right-wing Israeli minister could cover herself with fascism.

“That was a joke – a complete joke,” she said. “There was a debate about restructuring the judiciary and some people accused me of supporting fascism.”

Updated: October 5, 2021, 4:21 pm

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