Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
is urging Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
to meet with him in Beersheba, 30 years after the meeting between Menachem Begin
and Anwar Sadat in the southern city in May 1979, which led to a peace agreement
Speaking Sunday morning at the start of a special cabinet meeting in Beersheba, Netanyahu said, "I am calling on the leaders of the Palestinians and Arab states: Let's meet, let's cooperate. We have the ability to bring many investors. We are exerting efforts to ease restrictions on the Palestinians, but all the efforts can only reach a certain point."
The prime minister told his minister he had instructed the re-planning of a train line from Eilat to Beersheba – a plan prepared during Knesset Member Shaul Mofaz's
tenure in the Transportation Ministry.
Cabinet meeting in Beersheba (Photo: Herzel Yosef)
Netanyahu said this was the first cabinet meeting ever to be held in Beersheba. "It's also our first meeting after 100 days in office. Beersheba was not selected by chance." The prime minister explained that the meeting would discuss various projects planned in the city, including a new park, an Israel Defense Forces base, and an expansion of roads.
From the development of the Negev, Netanyahu moved on to the issue of peace: "I would like to say a word to our neighbors as well. The Palestinian population living alongside us has the basic right to live in security, peace and prosperity.
"In recent weeks we have exerted many efforts in order to ease their lives, we have removed many roadblocks,
decided to expand the Allenby crossing's operation hours
for additional goods, and I have decided to advance a series of projects with the Palestinian in order to promote peace.
"All these efforts can only reach a certain point, and the results will double themselves tenfold if only the other side cooperates with us.
"Therefore, I call on the Palestinian and Arab countries' leaders, let's meet. Let's cooperate. We can bring many investors. I would like to ask the Palestinian Authority's president to meet with me soon anywhere in the country. Since we are here in Beersheba, I call on him to meet me here.
"People tell me that these days we are marking the 30th anniversary of the peace treaty with Egypt and a little more than 30 years since Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin's meeting here in May 1979. Now is the time to meet."
Housing Minister Ariel Atias said, "It's clear today that the peace process is frozen due to Abu Mazen's refusal to meet with the prime minister, even after his Bar-Ilan speech. Abu Mazen continues to add preconditions, and I hope the prime minister's call will bear fruit."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak,
who also spoke at the start of the meeting, rejected the criticism voiced against the appointment
of Major-General Benny Gantz as deputy IDF chief of staff.
"Gantz's appointment was made in good conscience and judgment, so in the future we will have several candidates for the position of IDF chief of staff," he said.
Asked by reporters about the attempts
to convince Southern Command Chief Yoav Galant to remain in the army, Barak said, "I don't think I should be dealing with what Yoav Galant will be doing – he will meet with the shief of staff and things will be finalized there."