After Ecuador joined other Latin American countries in recognizing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned that Israel may face harsh ramifications due to the stalled peace process.
"I wouldn't be surprised if the US will also recognize a Palestinian state in the coming year, and then we will have to provide explanations as to how it happened," the Labor member told Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting.
Ben-Eliezer said time is not on Israel's side as long as the stalemate continues, adding that the recognition of a Palestinian state by Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador is indicative of Israel's difficult situation.
Over the weekend Ecuador's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that President Rafael Correa signed "the Ecuadoran government's official recognition of Palestine as a free and independent state with 1967 borders."
Uruguay said it would recognize 'Palestine' in 2011.
Even prior to the launching of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians in September, which collapsed with the expiration of Israel's 10-month construction moratorium in the West Bank's settlements, officials in Ramallah warned that if significant progress is not made they would ask countries and international institutions to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state.
"Beginning the peace negotiations is an existential issue as far as Israel and the Middle East are concerned. We must do everything in our power to come and talk with the Palestinians, even if it comes with the price of a freeze for a few months," said Ben-Eliezer.
Minister for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman agreed with his party member: "It seems that South America and Mexico will recognize a Palestinian state with 1967 borders." Braverman added that this is due to Israel's weakness. "We need to be active and not passive. I look forward to a clear decision calling for promoting peace through negotiations," he added.
'Arafat declared a state back in 1988'
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz expressed his sadness in light of recent developments. "One who operates unilaterally works against himself," he claimed. "There won't be peace and the Palestinian people won't have an independent state if things continue this way. It's a shame the Palestinians are operating through channels which contradict the Oslo Accords and organized talks."
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom claimed these unilateral steps will not advance Palestinian interests: "I've been hearing this for many years. Such discussions also took place when Arafat declared a state back in 1988. Twenty-two years have gone by since then and I've yet to see a state. One cannot unilaterally declare the establishment of a state. With that, it is obvious that these developments aren't positive and we must work with other countries to stop this phenomenon from spreading and prevent unilateral steps."
The ministers also discussed the escalation of rockets being fired from Gaza recently, only a few hours after IDF forces killed two terrorists who tried to plant explosive devices near the security fence.
"I hope Hamas will stop the firing from Gaza Strip. We have no interest in escalation," said Ben-Eliezer. "We have no choice but to react. In such a reality when we wake up every morning to a rocket being fired – don't expect us to return to our daily agenda. If they think they can continue to disturb the lives of families and that we will thank them for it, and that they can continue to attempt to kidnap our people – we won't allow it. However, I'll repeat myself – we have no interest in escalation."
The finance minister predicted that a confrontation along the Gaza Strip is inevitable. "Hamas is an extremist terror organization whose goal is to destroy Israel. A time might definitely come when we will have to fight and subjugate them. Sooner or later Israel won't have a choice but to overpower the Hamas regime in Gaza, and I predict they'll make us do it."
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