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Likud minister to Greater Israel: Give up your dream

By: Yossi Verter, Ha'aretz



Proponents of the Greater Land of Israel - including the recently established Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset, hawkish Likud members and other MKs - are deceiving the public because their dream cannot be fulfilled, Minister Michael Eitan (Likud) said over the weekend.

"You can't deceive all the time and speak about Greater Israel," Eitan said at a Geneva Initiative conference in Dimona. "It's a dream that will not be able to be fulfilled. The vast majority is willing to make significant concessions for peace. Everyone wants an agreement."

The conference, which discussed solutions proposed by the figures behind the Geneva Initiative peace proposal, featured Yossi Beilin, one of the architects of the proposal, as well as former Palestinian minister Sufian Abu Zaida and Dimona Mayor Meir Cohen.
Eitan, the improvement of government services minister and one of the few Likud MKs who has not supported the Land of Israel caucus, said it had no place in today's politics.

"Last week the Land of Israel caucus was established in the Knesset. Neither I nor [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu can join it, even though in '92 I founded a similar caucus," he said. "To talk about Greater Israel now - that's deception."

The Land of Israel caucus was founded last week by MKs Zeev Elkin (Likud) and Aryeh Eldad (National Union). With the exception of Eitan, Netanyahu and Minister Dan Meridor, all Likud MKs and ministers expressed support for the caucus' primary objective of strengthening Israel's hold on the entire West Bank.

Eitan sent the caucus founders a letter saying their declared goals "thunderously contradict the prime minister's position."

He told the conference Israel must not stop trying to make peace with the Palestinians.

"I tried to stop smoking 100 times, and I didn't succeed," he said. "On the 101st try, I succeeded. We have to try again and again and again until we reach an agreement, but without conceding security or the crucial interests of the State of Israel."

Cohen said Israel must reach a deal within the next decade.

"We have to choose between a state with a Jewish majority and a state with an Arab majority," he said. "I doubt whether we will have a Jewish majority in the state by 2020."