Israeli leaders are presenting conflicting views of the country’s future amid the stalled peace talks with Palestinians, reflecting sharp differences within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.
Several government ministers have talked of their “what next” visions during the annual Herzliya conference on Israeli security, which began Sunday.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, a longtime opponent of the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, called for the annexation of large parts of the West Bank to Israel and enhanced autonomy for Palestinians living in the remaining areas.
His former political ally, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, proposed that Israel freeze settlement construction while mapping out its future borders and threatened to topple the government if a single settlement was annexed. He supports a separation from Palestinians and a halt to construction, particularly in areas that might not belong to Israel as part of a peace agreement.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s chief negotiator, called for more negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, which this month announced the creation of a unity government backed by the Islamist group Hamas, which Israel considers a terrorist organization.
Speaking at a different conference, in Eilat, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman urged the government to come up with one coherent plan. Having “different ministers, each pulling in a different direction,” is untenable and has to stop, he said.
Other politicians and activists have also offered their views.
Danny Dayan, former chairman of the Yesha Council, the Jewish settlers umbrella organization, proposed granting Palestinians more freedom of movement and work in Israel. Though opposed to a Palestinian state, Dayan believes that regardless of the “political end game,” Palestinians must enjoy human rights and dignity in the West Bank.
Sobelman is a special correspondent.