I-24 NEWS – The pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is holding its annual policy conference this week, where Jewish Home party leader and Israel’s Education Minister, Naftali Bennett sat down with i24NEWS in an exclusive interview to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the new face of terrorism he calls, “viral terror.”
The right-wing, pro-settlement Jewish Home party leader has been outspoken in the past about his objection to a two-state solution, disapproving of a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank.
However, he maintained that he did wish to restart the peace negotiations admitting that, “We need peace, we very much need peace,” but questioned the means of getting there.
Bennett, in a declaration following US President Trump’s election last year, stated that, “The era of the Palestinian state is over.”
“We can do amazing things if we work together instead of work on slicing up a tiny country that cannot be sliced up anymore,” he told i24NEWS on Monday.
“The era of handing over Jewish land over to Arabs is over, it will not happen again as long as its up to me.”
Following a series of talks between Trump administration officials and Israeli aides to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, Bennett revealed that the meetings went “very well,” and that the White House is currently “in listening mode,” to examine all available options to reignite the peace process between the longtime adversaries.
“We can’t carve up the country, but we need to learn to live together,” said Bennett, who advocated further investment in infrastructure, tourism and high-tech to improve the lives of both Jews and Arabs and to promote peace and cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians.
It is more important to foster better living conditions for Arabs and Jews alike, he stated in the interview, adding that the Palestinians were “in a mess,” under their current leadership.
Division among Palestinians has become an added obstacle to the already thorny conflict, with a near civil war in 2007, the terrorist group Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, while the Fatah party, led by Mahmoud Abbas, maintains control of the West Bank territories.
Hamas, swearing to its destruction, has been a longstanding enemy to Israel.
However, Hamas’ rule in Gaza and Abbas’ leadership despite not having been elected “in decades,” makes it difficult to establish a valid peace partner with the Palestinians, Bennett says.
“The Palestinians are in a mess,” he said. “The majority would vote for Hamas, and the majority did vote for Hamas in the parliamentary election, with 76 percent over 48 percent for Fatah.”
“We need peace,” says Bennett, “We very much need peace, but the question is how you get there.”
Israel, a lighthouse in the storm
The scope for regional peace has broadened as Iran becomes a looming hegemonic force in the Middle East, Bennett insists that Arab countries must work together with Israel to defend against “the real threat,” of Iran.
Currently, Israel is considered a “regional superpower,” with its defense forces, intelligence information, cyber security technology and economy, “Israel is like a lighthouse within a storm,” he added.
“Everyone is looking at Israel to help defend the region against the real threat,” of Iran whose dominance would, “risk the entire free world,” he warned.
With the threat of a common enemy, Bennett says new countries are willing to engage with Israel, albeit sometimes quietly, in order to thwart the potential perils posed by its middle eastern rival.
A New Phase of Terror
As another common threat, the global fight against terrorism ensues, i24NEWS asked the former major of the IDF anti-terror unit, how to fight back against such “lone wolf” attacks that have been erupting across the world, the most recent being in London, which was hit last week by its biggest attack since the 2005 metro bombings.
Bennett declared that the world is facing, “a new phase of terror,” centrally inspired by radical Islam, incited by social media, and then carried out by “lone wolves.”
“We’re talking about a new phase of terror called ‘viral terror,’” he stated in light of the increase in attacks being carried out by self-motivated perpetrators.
The best way to deal with such threats is as “quickly as possible,” Bennett added.
In order to do so, social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter must take a stronger stance on the distribution of content supporting radical extremists, he continued, calling them “amplifiers of radical terror incitement.”
It is that coverage that fuels the support of such extremist groups as the Islamic State group, Bennett said.
“We will not accept videos of beheading, showing training, teaching young kids how to kill, this is unacceptable.”
“Israel is on top of it, but it needs to be used globally,” he said.
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