AKUNIS TO ‘POST’: Cabi­net ‘can’t live’ with US de­mand for two states

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - By LAHAV HARKOV

Many cabi­net mem­bers will vote against an Amer­i­can peace ini­tia­tive based on a two-state so­lu­tion, Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy and Space Min­is­ter Ofir Akunis warned ahead of his trip to the US next week.

Akunis said he ex­pects US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion to present a di­plo­matic plan for Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans in the com­ing months that will push for the es­tab­lish­ment of a Pales­tinian state.

“With all of my ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which I don’t hide,” Akunis said, “I can’t live with a doc­u­ment that talks about two states, and I will vote against it. I have a clear ide­o­log­i­cal stance... Many min­is­ters agree.”

Still, Akunis added that he’s “happy the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion hasn’t said [they want two states] since [US pres­i­dent Barack] Obama fin­ished his job.”

The Likud min­is­ter’s week­long US trip is not a di­plo­matic one; he will first head to the Jewish Fed­er­a­tions of North Amer­ica’s Gen­eral As­sem­bly in Los An­ge­les and then to ma­jor tech com­pa­nies in the San Fran­cisco area.

Still, Akunis said he thinks US Jews are con­cerned about di­plo­matic is­sues re­lated to Is­rael and he plans to make his views heard.

“We want peace and are ready to ne­go­ti­ate, but not based on

two states. I can­not ac­cept a pa­per like that from the Amer­i­cans,” he said.

The main mes­sage Akunis hopes to re­lay at the Gen­eral As­sem­bly is that US and Is­raeli Jews are “one na­tion,” de­spite dis­putes this past year over the ac­cep­tance of non-Or­tho­dox streams of Ju­daism in sev­eral ar­eas.

“I have a lot of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for tra­di­tion, but I be­lieve in live and let live,” Akunis said.

Ac­cord­ing to Akunis, “The agree­ments be­tween Jewish peo­ple in the US and Is­rael are greater than the dis­agree­ments.”

And the dis­agree­ments that ex­ist are fine and nor­mal, he added.

The min­is­ter also dis­puted the com­mon wis­dom that young Amer­i­can Jews feel less con­nected to Is­rael.

“Since I be­came a deputy min­is­ter [in 2013], I have met with Masa and Birthright groups, and even though peo­ple say the young peo­ple’s con­nec­tion is weaker, I to­tally dis­agree,” he said.

In North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Akunis has meet­ings planned with NASA, Ama­zon and Face­book, in which he hopes to dis­cuss ways to cut red tape and make it eas­ier for them to do busi­ness in Is­rael.

“We want to sup­port tech com­pa­nies, and they want to come to Is­rael. I, as a min­is­ter, have prob­lems with the bu­reau­cracy here, so I un­der­stand that it’s even worse for them,” he said. •


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