TEL AVIV – Israel’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi on Monday hailed U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace as a “historic opportunity” to shape the country’s future.
“We’re in front of significant regional opportunities, primarily President Trump’s peace proposal. I consider this plan a significant milestone,” he said at a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry.
“President Trump presented us with a historic opportunity to shape the future of the State of Israel and its borders for decades to come,” the former IDF chief of staff said.
He said the Trump administration’s plan will be advanced “responsibly, with full coordination with the United States, through dialogue with our neighbors and safeguarding all of the State of Israel’s peace agreements and strategic interests.”
“Peace with our neighbors is a strategic asset and it is important to safeguard it,” Ashkenazi said, and pointed to Egypt and Jordan as Israel’s “important allies.”
The Trump administration’s peace proposal sees Israel annexing 30 percent of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. According to the coalition deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White head Benny Gantz, annexation could be brought to a vote in the Knesset as early as July 1.
Trump’s plan would also see a demilitarized Palestinian state established on most of the West Bank with parts of eastern Jerusalem that are outside the Israeli security fence as its capital. The Palestinians would also receive an economic package to the tune of $50 billion if they agreed to the terms of the deal which include stopping incitement to terror and ending their so-called “pay-for-slay” scheme paying financial stipends to convicted terrorists and their families.
Ashkenazi assumed his ministerial position as Israel’s 35th government, the largest in the country’s history, was sworn in on Sunday.
Prior to the swearing-in ceremony, Netanyahu, amid heckling from opposition members, said the power-sharing unity deal with Gantz prevented a fourth election cycle.
“We went through three elections that deepened chasms and had a heavy financial toll. Another election would have cost NIS 2 billion more,” he said.
“The majority of the public is happy to accept a unity government. The public wants a unity government, and that’s what the public is getting today,” he said. He added that his Likud party “received the highest number of votes a party ever received in the country’s history.”
Netanyahu also said annexing the West Bank would bring peace closer.
“The time has come for anyone who believes in our just rights in the Land of Israel to join a government led by me to bring about a historic process together.”
“These areas are the cradle of the Jewish people. It is time to extend Israel’s law over them. This step won’t bring us further away from peace, it will bring us closer. The truth is, and everyone knows it, that the hundreds of thousands of settlers in Judea and Samaria will always stay put in any future deal,” he added, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.
Speaking after Netanyahu, Gantz hailed the end of the “worst political crisis in Israel’s history.” Gantz said that failing to strike a unity deal would have ended in “a kind of civil war.”
“The people told us to stop fighting and start working for them,” he said.
According to the terms of the deal, Gantz will replace Netanyahu as prime minister in 18 months’ time.