Report: Shas Deputy Speaker Backs Possible Geneva Peace Agreement

MK YIZHAK VAKNIN

SHAS MK AND DEPUTY SPEAKER YIZHAK VAKNIN SAYS TODAY ON ISRAELI RADIO THAT HE WOULD “SIGN THE GENEVA ACCORDS WITH BOTH HANDS”.

The Geneva Accords, an agreement signed between unofficial Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in 2003 calling for a two-state solution has been strongly endorsed today by Member of Knesset Vaknin of Shas.  The Geneva Initiative, the present-day organisation working to promote the Accords, has done much in recent months to garner support among Shas party activists and local politicians, but Vaknin represents to date the most senior politician in Shas to publicly announce his endorsement for the peace plan.

Since its founding, Shas has officially described itself as a “non-zionist” party, but in recent years it has increasingly been associated with the right-wing of Israeli politics and against a peace agreement with the Palestinians.  In September 2010, Shas party chairman and Interior Minister, Eli Yishai said “as long as there is no change in the leadership of the Palestinians, there should be no advancement in talks”.  In the same interview he also said that, “the Land of Israel needs to build and be built, period.”  However, all is not clear among Shas’ top leadership.  For example, Yishai’s views would appear to be at odds with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the much revered but now ageing founder and spiritual leader of Shas, who was also the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel.  During the “Oslo Years” of the early 1990s, Yosef famously provided Prime Minister Rabin with support for his then unprecedented peace initiative by arguing that it is permissible in Judaism to give up land for peace under the principle of “pikuach nefesh” (saving lives).  In 1992, Yosef also expressed an interest in becoming personally involved in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, claiming that due to his own Middle Eastern and religious background he would more adept at understanding the religious-cultural worldview of a leader such as (now) President Mahmoud Abbas.  Former Shas Party Head, Aryeh Deri has also made similar statements in the past.

For English text excerpt from Vaknin’s interview click here

For full Hebrew audio click here

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