TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a July 4 party on Tuesday vowed to keep an “open mind” about the long-anticipated Trump administration peace proposal, and slammed the Palestinian leadership for rejecting the plan sight unseen.
Netanyahu, who made his remarks at the first ever American Independence Day party in Jerusalem, also thanked Bahrain for hosting the U.S.-led economic peace workshop last week.
“It was encouraging to see numerous Arab governments participate in the workshop, despite Palestinian efforts to undermine it,” Netanyahu said.
Officials from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and business delegations from Israel and other countries attended the two-day Manama summit. The Palestinian leadership snubbed both the summit and the $50 billion economic portion of the peace plan unveiled by the White House. Palestinian forces in the West Bank subsequently arrested or attempted to arrest Palestinian businessmen who attended the conference.
“The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” Netanyahu said, borrowing a famous quote from Israel’s former foreign minister Abba Eban.
“They just did another one. Again the Palestinian leadership held the prosperity of their own people hostage to their ideology against Israel,” Netanyahu said.
“I hope the Palestinian leadership chooses a different course. I hope that instead of rejecting President Trump’s peace initiative, even before they’ve seen it, they should keep an open mind about it. That’s certainly what I’m going to do,” he went on.
Netanyahu added that he was looking forward to working with Trump and his team to “advance peace, prosperity and security.”
“Security comes first but peace and prosperity can come too, if there’s a willingness finally on the Palestinian side to abandon the goal of destroying Israel and once and for all to recognize the Jewish state. That’s the problem and that’s the solution,” he said.
The event, at the International Conference Center in Jerusalem, was a “historic gathering” and “one of the preeminent 4th of July parties in the entire world,” U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who hosted the event, said.
“America’s physical beginnings may be traced back to Plymouth Rock, Valley Forge, the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, the 4th of July or other important points of historical reference,” the American envoy said.
“But America’s spiritual beginning, its bedrock foundational principles, its understanding of the God-given rights of every human being — that beginning occurred with, in the words of Isaiah, ‘the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,’” he said.
“That’s why it is so incredibly special to celebrate with you this evening the signing of the Declaration of Independence for the first time from the city of Jerusalem.”
The U.S.’s July 4 parties have traditionally taken place outside the capital. However, at last year’s event, Netanyahu specifically put in a request to Friedman to host this year’s festivities in Jerusalem.
“David, I have one message for you. I have one request: Next year in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said at the time. “This is a fine and beautiful hall, immaculately done. Next year in Jerusalem, right next to the American embassy. There can’t be a more glorious gathering with greater friends.”