Netanyahu praises Trump’s vision in speech to US evangelical group

Netanyahu tells American Christian supporters that applying sovereignty in Judea and Samaria will also advance peace, not torpedo it.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a large, virtual gathering of American Christian supporters Monday night that he was ready to negotiate a peace agreement with the Palestinians on the basis of President Trump’s peace plan.

In a pre-recorded message to the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) annual summit, which was held online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Netanyahu said that he was convinced that it was possible to build a peaceful future for both sides. He called on the Palestinians not to miss “the historic opportunity of the century” that the American administration has provided.

“Israel is ready for negotiations under these conditions; I am ready for negotiations,” he said, calling the plan “a realistic solution of two states.” He added that “applying Israeli law to the territories will not hurt peace but advance it.”

According to the coalition agreement, July 1 is the first date that Israeli sovereignty can be applied to the 30 percent of Judea and Samaria that the Trump plan envisages as being a permanent part of Israel in any agreement with the Palestinians.

It is highly unlikely that any Knesset vote will take place in three days, as an exact map of the area has yet to be finalized. In addition, Likud and Blue and White are still discussing whether sovereignty should be applied to all 30 percent at once, or just pieces of it.

Conflicting statements have been  made by Israeli politicians about what would be preferable, and if it should be done gradually, then where it would be best to begin – with the settlement blocs, the more isolated Jewish communities, the Jordan Valley, or any combination thereof.

Netanyahu praised Trump’s vision, saying, “It’s good for Israel, it’s good for the Palestinians, and it’s good for peace.”

Unlike others who came before him, the president recognized and accepted reality for what it was, Netanyahu said.

“The Trump plan doesn’t change facts on the ground, but rather, recognizes those facts,” the prime minister said. “It doesn’t return Israel to the 1967 borders, but provides Israel secure borders, including the strategic Jordan Valley.”

Defense Minister and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz also addressed the summit virtually. He echoed Netanyahu in saying that the American plan “opened a historic window of opportunity” and called the Palestinian Authority (PA) to rethink its total rejection of the plan, even before it was rolled out.

PA officials have been telling the international community for weeks that if sovereignty is applied “on even an inch” of land, as senior PA negotiator Saib Erekat put it Saturday night on Palestinian television, they would dismantle the Authority. They would bring all the weapons and ammunition of their security services “by truck to Beit El” and Israel would have to take on again all security and civil responsibility for the region.

CUFI claims over eight million members who “defend Israel and fight anti-Semitism in our communities, churches, college campuses, the media and on Capitol Hill.”

As a large, dedicated contingent within the Republican party, they are widely credited for Trump being the most favorable president to Israel in history. Last year, some 5,000 fervent supporters came to Washington, D.C. for the annual conference.