Israeli far-right ministers slam reported peace plan for Palestinian state

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Two powerful Israeli far-right ministers Thursday slammed a reported US peace plan with its Arab allies for a Gaza truce which lays the foundation for a Palestinian state.

The Washington Post reported that US President Joe Biden’s administration and a small group of Arab nations are working out a comprehensive plan for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

It includes a firm timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state, the report said.

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“An initial ceasefire, projected to be at least six weeks, would provide time to make the plan public, recruit additional support and take the initial steps toward its implementation, including the formation of an interim Palestinian government,” the report said quoting unnamed US and Arab officials.

Planners hope an agreement that would include the release of hostages can be reached before March 10 when the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan is expected to begin, it said.

But the proposal was slammed by Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, both extreme-right settlers living in the occupied West Bank.

“We will in no way agree to this plan, which actually says that the Palestinians deserve a reward for the terrible massacre they committed,” Smotrich wrote on social media platform X, referring to the October 7 attack by Hamas.

“A Palestinian state is an existential threat to the State of Israel as was proven on October 7.”

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Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories of West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem are seen as a major barrier to a peace deal.

“1,400 are murdered and the world wants to give them a state. Not going to happen,” wrote Ben-Gvir on X.

“The establishment of a Palestinian state means the establishment of a Hamas state.”

Gaza truce talks

An earlier set of agreements which were due to lead to a permanent solution to the conflict -- the 1990s Oslo Accords -- created the Palestinian Authority which has limited rule in the West Bank.

Israel bans Palestinian political activity from east Jerusalem, while Gaza has for years been ruled by militant group Hamas which is split from the PA.

The outrage by Israeli extreme-right ministers came as mediators from the United States, Qatar and Egypt met in Cairo this week to broker a deal that would halt Gaza fighting.

Hamas has tabled proposals for an initial weeks-long truce, during which prisoners would be exchanged, while outlining other aspects including more aid and the withdrawal of Israeli troops.

Israeli media reported the country’s delegation was ordered not to return to the Cairo talks until Hamas softened its stance.

“I insist that Hamas drop their delusional demands, and when they drop these demands we can move forward,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday without commenting on these reports.

The families of hostages who are campaigning for the release of the captives expressed anger after Netanyahu’s comments.

“This is a scandalous decision that amounts to a death sentence and deliberate sacrifice of the ... hostages languishing in Hamas’ tunnels,” the Hostages and Missing Families Forum campaign group said late on Wednesday.

Around 250 people were abducted to the Gaza Strip by militants during the October 7 attack, Israeli officials say. Some 130 are still held captive, including 29 who are believed to be dead.

The attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Israel’s blistering retaliatory military response in Gaza has so far killed 28,576 people, most of them women, children and adolescents, according to the territory’s health ministry.

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