Before and After: Netanyahu's Shifting Comments on a Palestinian State

The Israeli prime minister is under fire for changing his position on the question of a two-state solution.

Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, listens during a television interview in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010.

Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu guilty of a flip-flop when it comes to the question of his support for the ultimate creation of a Palestinian state? 

That debate stems from the statements Netanyahu has made before and after his party's reelection in this week's Israeli elections, in which the prime minister seemed to rule out a two-state solution to the decades old conflict with the Palestinians as a way to court right-wing votes.

Here then is a review of how Netanyahu has addressed the subject over the last few days. 

Two days before the election

“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. Anyone who ignores this is sticking his head in the sand.”

Asked whether he was ruling out the establishment of a Palestinian state while he was prime minister, Netanyahu responded, "Indeed." 

One day after the election 

ANDREA MITCHELL:  Prime Minister, congratulations on your victory.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL:  Thank you.

MITCHELL:  But -- there's always a but -- critics and analysts here and around the world are saying at what cost.  Your hard turn right on the Palestinian issue, what you said about the Arab voters coming out in droves, they say are costing you, costing you support around the world.

NETANYAHU:  Well, neither one is -- the premises in your question are wrong.  I haven't changed my policy.  I never changed my speech in Bar Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. What has changed is the reality.  Abu Mazen, the Palestinian leader, refuses to recognize the Jewish state, has made a pact with Hamas that calls for destruction of Jewish state.  And every territory that is vacated in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces.

MITCHELL:  But they are saying -

NETANYAHU:  We want that to change, so we can realize a vision of real, sustained real peace.  And I don't want a one-state solution.  I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that circumstances have to change.

MITCHELL:  But you were reelected on a mandate, certainly Israeli voters, your supporters, believe you were reelected on a mandate against a two-state solution.  That is the way the White House is interpreting.  The White House says this is divisive, and it's so divisive that now the administration is saying that they will not stop the U.N. from conferring statehood.  They will not block -- or at least they're strongly considering not blocking a vote for statehood for Palestinians 

NETANYAHU:  Well, first of all, that state would become a terrorist state.  Iran says that they will arm the West Bank the way they arm Gaza.  We withdrew from Gaza.  We got just a few months ago, not ancient history but a few months ago, thousands of rockets, Andrea, on our heads.

The Takeaway

Whether Netanyahu is guilty of a flip-flop on the two-state question, simply expanded on previously held suspicions, or kept a steady view from his 2009 speech in which he threw his support behind a permanent and independent homeland for the Palestinians, it's clear that the prospect of it coming to pass now seems unlikely. 

On that, anyway, the Palestinians and Israelis would seem to agree. 

"Netanyahu's statements against a two-state solution and against a Palestinian state... are proof, if correct, that there is no seriousness in the (future) Israeli government about a political solution," Mahmoud Abbas told reporters on Thursday.  

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