The man tipped to be the next president of Israel has spoken of his deep scepticism of the peace process.
Reuven Rivlin, a Likud MK and a former speaker of the Knesset, insists that “the Arabs will never accept any solution that will give them anything less than the state of Israel. They will never accept that Israel is the land of the Jewish people.”
Mr Rivlin, who was in Britain this week to speak at a lunch held jointly by the Board of Deputies and Magen David Adom UK, said he believed that the talks were being imposed on the Palestinians and the Israelis by the US, despite the fact that there is no longer anything to agree on.
“We thought we were coming to an understanding with the Palestinians with the Oslo agreement. At least we agreed about something back then. Since then we have not progressed. Every concession we have made has led to a worse situation.”
Mr Rivlin said that even though it is the “destiny” of Israelis and Palestinians to live together side by side, “unfortunately this is not understood by many Jews and Palestinians”.
Mr Rivlin denied he was advocating a one-state solution: “I know that living side by side is a utopia.”
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that the only way to sustain Israel as the homeland for the Jews is to accept two states for two peoples, he said, “nobody knows how to do it”.
“Whatever we do we have to do it with an open heart and an open mind. We have to be hopeful but also look to the future with care. Maybe the impossible can become possible.”
Mr Rivlin admitted that he may be “surprised” by the peace process. But, he warned, “if the people of Israel awake to the nightmare of another intifada, for example, they will never again accept any kind of deal with the Palestinians.”
On the recent terror attacks on Eilat, Mr Rivlin said: “We are doing everything within our power to protect tourists and ourselves. Together with the Egyptians, we are fighting the jihadists.”
Mr Rivlin refused to be drawn on his presidential ambitions, saying: “The decision about who will be the next president of Israel is up to the parliament. Right now we have a very good president, he’s quite young, only 90 years old. Ask me the question next year and I will be able to be much more specific.”