Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told lawmakers Israel “must separate from the Palestinians,” a government official said, hinting again at possible unilateral moves following the breakdown of U.S.- sponsored peace talks.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment publicly. He provided no further details on what the Israeli leader told members of parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in their closed meeting on June 2 or what he meant by separation.
The language, however, was reminiscent of the term “disengagement” that Israel used to refer to its 2005 withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip, carried out unilaterally under then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the absence of peacemaking. Netanyahu referred to unilateral action in an interview with Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg published May 23, in which he noted that some Israelis favor disengaging from sections of the West Bank with large Palestinian populations, even if this would mean dismantling Jewish settlements.
“It’s true that the idea of taking unilateral steps is gaining ground, from the center-left to the center-right,” he said in that interview. “Many Israelis are asking themselves if there are certain unilateral steps that could theoretically make sense.”
While Israelis don’t want a repeat of the Gaza experience, where militants used evacuated territory to fire rockets at Israel, steps must be taken to prevent the collapse of Israel as a Jewish-majority democratic nation, Netanyahu said in the interview last month.
The Israel Democracy Institute-Tel Aviv University Peace Index, a monthly poll conducted by the Midgam Research Institute, found that 60 percent of the country’s Jews surveyed in late May oppose unilateral withdrawal. More than two-thirds of the country’s 20-percent Arab minority support it. The poll of 605 people had a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians foundered two months ago. Israel has said it won’t negotiate with the new Palestinian government formed this week because it is backed by the Gaza-based Hamas movement, considered a terrorist movement by the U.S. and the European Union for its attacks on Israeli civilian targets.
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