Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) appeared on journalist Aryeh Golan’s Israel Radio morning show Wednesday in response to the surprising statements—first by the new defense minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) that he was all in favor of the two-state solution, followed by the cooing response of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who appeared eager to get together and chat peace with comrade Yvette.
And so, Aryeh Golan opened: “Mahmoud Abbas is saying if Liberman supports the two-state solution there’s no reason not to meet him. [Ma’alot-Tarshiha Mayor] Shlomo Bohbot [who met with Abbas on Tuesday, along with other Galilee regional council heads] says, I found an amazing man. Lieberman says the wholeness of the nation takes precedence over the wholeness of the land. You hear new voices from both sides regarding a meeting, [renewed] negotiations?”
“We’ve already seen Mr. Liberman speaking this way one time, that way another, presumably in accordance with international pressure and other factors,” Ariel answered. “I would have preferred it to be different, but these are the facts.” He advised: “Talks are not a scary thing. The question is what do we say during the talks.”
Golan: Prime Minister Netanyahu sounded as if he approves the Saudi initiative, ahead of the [Paris] foreign ministers conference Friday.
Ariel: I’ve said it in the past, this is not the position of the government, nor the Likud, nor any authorized political entity.
Golan: The Prime Minster is not authorized enough?
Ariel: He is first among equals. There is no decision at all, not political, not by any party, not national, certainly not in the Knesset. On the contrary, last year MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Camp) tried to pass the Arab initiative in the Knesset and the Likud rejected it.
“I see here a verbal maneuvering,” Ariel added. “I’m sorry it’s been done, I would have preferred that he [didn’t do it] but for that you have Habayit Hayehudi — why are we here? — To speak the truth.”
Golan: And should the Prime Minister embrace the French initiative? Do you agree with Liberman’s statement (originally made by the late Rv Ovadia Yosef) that the wholeness of the nations takes precedence over the wholeness of the land?
That was Liberman’s signal slogan upon entering office this week: he cares more about national cohesiveness than about territories. That’s usually something politicians say just before making some section of the national whole really miserable (see Gush Katif in a Google search near you).
Ariel: In my opinion the French initiative is totally screwed up at its foundation. It sets an end date [for the talks]. So that the other side can just linger, play for time, until the date arrives and then Israel is to blame. Which is why the PM does not agree with the French initiative. He talks about direct negotiations about which, in this context, he is certainly right, it’s better this way — the way the peace agreements with Jordan and with Egypt were reached, in direct talks between us and the Arabs and not through others.
“As to the statement about the wholeness of the nation — there’s no contradiction here,” Ariel insisted. “It’s comparing two unequal terms, like it’s better to eat spaghetti than to dance the waltz. It’s true, but so what? It doesn’t work this way.”
“We’re about to celebrate Jerusalem Liberation Day on Sunday,” Ariel pointed out. “We’ve been in the territories for 48 years. Jordan had been there only 19 years. The slogan sounds nice, but, again, it’s a verbal maneuver in ever-changing situations.”
So, at least while Habayit Hayehudi is in government, those territories are non-negotiable. Unless you like spaghetti with your waltz.