Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced Friday after a Zoom conversation with heads of US Jewish organizations that he will work towards reducing tensions and improving relations with the Palestinian Authority.
“Everyone understands that we don’t expect a political breakthrough in the near future,” Bennett told officials of American Jewish organizations, noting there has always been a black-and-white approach to the issue – “either move towards a Palestinian state or do nothing.”
However, he said, “I think that in many areas it is possible to act to reduce the problem,” underscoring particularly the possibilities of improvement in the economic field.
“I believe that employment and living with dignity can improve the situation,” he said. “Two parties can take measures to reduce tensions and improve daily life.”
Where have Israelis heard that before?
More than 10 years ago – during an address and interview with the Foreign Press Association, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the benefits of creating an “economic peace.”
“I think we face great opportunities and I think our neighbors can join us in enjoying very robust economic growth. . . Israel has a tremendous economy. I think we have a tremendous economic team,” Netanyahu said on January 20, 2010.
“We have a very clear direction – very clear. We want peace with our neighbors. We will defend ourselves obviously if we need to but part of the peace that we envision involves an economic peace.
“It involves the opening-up of trade and ventures between us and our Palestinian neighbors, between us and Egypt, between us and Jordan, between us and the rest of the Arab world – those who will wish to partake in this. And we think Israel can help an economic resurgence that is good for all.
“I think there’s been a much greater sophistication that has trickled down and up in the Arab governments and people now understand that economic development – economic growth – rapid growth is good for everyone. It’s certainly very good for peace. It’s not a substitute for political negotiations but it greases the wheels, so to speak. So we have acted. We practice what we preach.”
Netanyahu continued to speak often about the benefits of an economic peace over the next decade.
The administration of then-US President Donald Trump likewise incorporated the importance of economic peace into its “Deal of the Century: Peace to Prosperity, A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People.”
The long-awaited Middle East Peace plan was rolled out on January 28, 2020, but the deal was dead on arrival.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who declared that honor was more important than money, rejected it outright.
And he meant it – his Ramallah government continued to provide full monthly salaries to imprisoned terrorists and the families of those who died trying murder Israeli men, women and children – even when other priorities were slashed due to lack of funds.
Now Israel’s current prime minister is trying once again to entice the Palestinian Authority into engaging with Israel for peace. There is nothing new in the approach he has launched, other than the Israeli faces – and some of them are the same as well.
In the Palestinian Authority, nothing whatsoever has changed, including the incumbent leader, now in the tenth year of his post-four-year term.
“I also do not want to create the illusion of something that will not happen because a disappointment can have negative consequences,” Bennett also warned American Jewish leaders on Friday.
“We will not take drastic measures.”
It remains to be seen just what Bennett can accomplish in the two year term he is to serve before handing the reins of power to his more left-wing partner, current Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.