Netanyahu Says Two-State Solution Today Gives “Attack Grounds” for “Radical Islam”

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=”font-size:>Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel on Mar. 18, 2015
Source: Harold Meyerson, “Netanyahu’s Scorched Earth Tactics Could Make Israel’s Problems Worse,” Washington Post, Mar. 18, 2015 (Photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters)

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During an interview with Israeli news website NRG on Mar. 16, 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that, “I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands, is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel.” When asked by the interviewer if that meant that his government would not support the establishment of a Palestinian state, he simply said, “Correct.”

Netanyahu’s comments were interpreted both in Israel and abroad as an abandonment of prior commitments to eventually establish a sovereign Palestinian state, which has been the ultimate goal of the US-led peace process since the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestinian leadership.

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, said at a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee: “If these things are true, it means that the Israeli government has no serious intentions to reach a peace agreement that will create two states based on the 1967 borders… We therefore will not retreat from our position to apply international law, and so it is our right to go anywhere in the world to realize our rights according to international law.”

Netanyahu’s statement distancing himself from a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was seen by many as an effort to boost turnout among the Likud Party’s conservative base, much of which is either wary of or opposed to the idea of an independent Palestine. The Likud Party won in Israel’s Mar. 17, 2015 parliamentary elections.

In a Mar. 19 interview with NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, Netanyahu claimed that his pre-election statement was not a reversal of policy, but rather a statement about what is realistically possible in the current situation. In the interview, Netanyahu said, “I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that, circumstances have to change.” Despite Netanyahu’s clarification, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest expressed the Obama Administration’s concern about the original remarks: “[T]he Prime Minister essentially backed away from commitments that Israel had previously made to this effort… this commitment to a two-state solution has been the bedrock of a lot of U.S. policy.”

Some analysts believe that Netanyahu is a pragmatist, and he will reopen the door to a two-state peace plan when it is more politically convenient to do so. On Mar. 17, the New York Times quoted Gidi Grinstein, an Israeli strategy consultant, who said that “In the end I would not rule out his going back to the two-state solution.” Others, such as David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to President Obama, believe that Netanyahu has severely damaged both US-Israeli relations and the peace process. In an MSNBC interview on Mar. 18, Axelrod said that Netanyahu “mortgaged the future in order to win an election.”

Sources:

Josh Earnest, “White House Press Briefing,” iipdigital.usembassy.gov, Mar. 19, 2015

Greg Jaffe, “A White House Warning on Anti-Arab Rhetoric in Israeli Elections,” Washington Post, Mar. 18, 2015

Herb Keinon, Michael Wilner, and Tovah Lazaroff, “Netanyahu Backs off Opposition to a Palestinian State,” Jerusalem Post, Mar. 19, 2015

Isabel Kershner, “Deep Wounds and Lingering Questions after Israel’s Bitter Race,” New York Times, Mar. 17, 2015

Eliott C. McLaughlin, “Israel’s PM Netanyahu: No Palestinian State on My Watch,” CNN, Mar. 16, 2015

Brian Murphy, “Backtracking, Netanyahu Says He Wants Two-state Solution,” Washington Post, Mar. 19, 2015