Netanyahu Says He Won’t Allow Palestinian State If ElectedCalev Ben-David and Jonathan Ferziger
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state if he is re-elected, further rolling back his acceptance six years ago of a two-state solution.
Netanyahu spoke in an interview posted on the NRG news website Monday after visiting a Jerusalem neighborhood built on contested territory on the last day of the campaign as he tried to shore up his Likud party, which is trailing in the polls.
“I think that whoever today moves to establish a Palestinian state and withdraw from territory is giving attack territory for Islamic extremists against the state of Israel,” Netanyahu told NRG. “Whoever ignores that is burying his head in the sand.” Asked if that meant no Palestinian state if he wins a fourth term on Tuesday, Netanyahu said, “Indeed.”
Soon after starting his third term in June 2009, Netanyahu said he would accept a Palestinian state if it were demilitarized and recognized Israel as a Jewish state. His words, delivered at Bar-Ilan University outside Tel Aviv, were the foundation of a series of U.S.-backed efforts to revive peace negotiations that ultimately crashed last April. Earlier this month, Netanyahu said his 2009 remarks were no longer relevant because of unrest across the Middle East.
Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, said Netanyahu’s latest statement shows he was “never serious” about a two-state solution.
“It’s clear that Israel’s strategic plan is to keep building more settlements,” he said in a phone interview from Ramallah. “The only option we have is to seek the involvement of the International Criminal Court,” where Palestinians are pursuing war crimes charges against Israel.
Netanyahu earlier Monday stopped in Har Homa, a Jewish development considered an illegal settlement by most world governments, to reaffirm his commitment to building on captured land that Palestinians claim.
“We will continue building and fortifying all areas of Jerusalem so it cannot be divided and will remain united forever,” he said.
Palestinians want Jerusalem’s eastern sector, seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, for a future capital, and Israel’s construction there has been condemned internationally. In the election campaign’s last days, Netanyahu has accused his main political rivals, Zionist Union party leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, of failing to support his government’s construction of Jewish homes in all areas of the city.
While previous Israeli governments have indicated willingness to cede some areas of the eastern sector, many Israelis want Jerusalem to remain united, under Israeli sovereignty.
If Herzog and Livni form the next government, “here on these hills, another Hamas-stan will be created,” Netanyahu said, referring to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
On a visit to the Western Wall, a Jewish holy site in east Jerusalem’s Old City, Herzog promised to “ensure the strength and stability of Jerusalem and its residents with actions, not just words, more than any other leader.”
Herzog cemented his leadership of the opposition ticket on Monday, saying Livni agreed to relinquish the deal they made when forming an alliance in December, under which she would replace him as prime minister after two years. The move may ease negotiations with possible coalition partners who don’t like the rotation idea.
“She approached me today and told me honestly — if the rotation is in some way an obstacle to the establishment of the government, I won’t stand in the way,” Herzog said in an interview on Channel 2 television.
The latest polls show Netanyahu’s Likud faction lagging behind Zionist Union by three or four of parliament’s 120 seats, with both parties falling far short of the majority needed to form a new government. While polls suggest the prime minister is better positioned than Herzog to form a new ruling coalition, the election is too close to call.
Netanyahu has focused over the past week on trying to keep voters from straying to smaller parties who take an even harder line against concessions to the Palestinians, including Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home.