Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a ceremony honoring World War II veterans and marking the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly pledged his support for a twostate solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday, in his first clear policy statement on the issue since his new government was formed earlier this month.
“I don’t support a one-state solution – I don’t believe that’s a solution at all,” Netanyahu said in Jerusalem before meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who is in the Middle East on a two-day trip.
“I support the vision of two states for two peoples – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state – and I look forward to discussing with you how we can advance that vision forth in a practical, secure, and responsible way,” Netanyahu said.
The international community has been skeptical with regard to Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution, particularly after he made statements against it on the eve of the March 17th election. He said then that, in light of the security situation in the Middle East, it would not be possible for a Palestinian state to be created during his premiership.
Prior to her arrival in the region, Mogherini said that the EU wants to play a major role in relaunching the peace process, which has been frozen since April 2014, when the US-led negotiations fell apart.
Netanyahu assured Mogherini that he is committed to resolving the conflict.
“Israel wants peace. I want peace. We want a peace that would end the conflict once and for all. My position has not changed,” Netanyahu said. He added that Israel has taken tangible steps make life easier for the Palestinians.
“We’ve taken economic steps, added measures for reconstruction and development and ensuring ongoing humanitarian support. We’ll continue with those practical steps,” Netanyahu said.
Mogherini told Netanyahu that Europe has a common interest in ending violence in the region. “The EU is interested in peace and security for Israel and for the region, because this is also our European peace and security,” she said.
Earlier in Ramallah she spoke against the status quo and said that it is a European, Palestinian, and Israeli common interest “to move forward, because there is no status quo.”
The Palestinian Authority similarly promised Mogherini that it is committed to the peace process during the Ramallah meetings with her. Following her talk with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said, “We are making every possible effort to salvage the peace process.”
Erekat said that Abbas stressed during the meeting that he is in favor of the resumption of the peace process with Israel, but only after the Israeli government accepts Palestinian demands.
This includes a freeze of settlement building in the West Bank and Jewish building over the pre-1967 lines in Jerusalem.
Abbas also wants Israel to release all Palestinian prisoners incarcerated before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
He said that all Palestinian actions in international forums, including its pursuit of Israel before the International Criminal Court and the upcoming resolution at the United Nations Security Council, were designed to preserve the possibly of a two-state solution.
“There’s great cooperation with the Arab League committee entrusted with discussing a new resolution that would be submitted to the UN Security Council.
We’re also working together in international forums, including the International Criminal Court. All what we are doing is aimed at preserving the twostate solution as we face an Israeli government that has chosen the language of settlements, dictates, detentions, and assassinations,” Erekat said.
He criticized Netanyahu’s remarks earlier this week that Jerusalem would remain the eternal united capital of Israel.
Erekat expressed hope that the EU would pursue its efforts to oblige the Israeli government to fulfill its commitments under the terms of the peace process, especially the cessation of settlement construction.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who also met with Mogherini in Jerusalem, told the EU foreign policy chief that for the peace process to resume, the Palestinians need to return to the negotiating table and must halt their unilateral steps against Israel in the international arena.
Referring to the Jerusalem terrorist attack earlier in the day in which two border policemen were purposefully run down and wounded by a Palestinian motorist, Hotovely said that Europe should strongly condemn terrorism, as well as back Israel’s demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.
Hotovely welcomed Mogherini’s comment that she was interested in coming now after the establishment of the new Israeli government to listen to both sides, saying her visit has a “great deal of importance.”
Mogherini is scheduled to meet with opposition head Isaac Herzog and President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday, before she returns to Brussels.