As he sought to stop voters leaving Likud Beytenu for Naftali Bennett’s Bayit
Yehudi party on his right, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told The Jerusalem
Post this week that a “real and fair” accord with the Palestinians cannot
include driving masses of Jews from their homes in settlement blocs beyond the
“I think that there is recognition that ultimately there has
to be a real and fair solution, and that certainly doesn’t include driving out
hundreds of thousands of Jews who live in the suburbs of Jerusalem, and in the
suburbs of Tel Aviv, in the Ariel bloc,” Netanyahu said in an interview in his
“I think that is unrealistic.”
immediately after the elections he would put a diplomatic initiative on the
table, and what he knew of any initiative by the Europeans to present a new
peace plan, Netanyahu talked more about explaining Israel’s position to the
world than presenting any proposal of his own.
There would surely be
“many initiatives,” and “we’ll have an important task in trying to tell the
truth to the world,” he said.
That truth, he explained, was that the
settlement issue was not the core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, nor was
the Palestinian issue the core of instability in the Middle East.
core of the conflict is the persistent refusal of the Palestinians to recognize
the Jewish state in any boundary,” he declared.
Asked whether Israel
could withstand the intense international pressure against building in east
Jerusalem and the settlements, Netanyahu said, “I think that many recognize that
while there are differences inside Israel, there is a common acceptance that the
so-called settlement blocs will remain part of Israel in any settlement, and
that’s where the majority of construction is taking place.”
minister responded to sharp criticism attributed to President Barack Obama this
week by US columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, telling the Post that he and Obama “have
our differences, especially on the best way to achieve and advance a defensible
peace with the Palestinians.
“By the way, these differences between
American presidents and Israeli prime ministers are not new,” he said. “They go
back to the founding of the state.”
Netanyahu then checked off a healthy
list of major disagreements between Israeli prime ministers and US
administrations – beginning with prime minister David Ben-Gurion and US
secretary of state George Marshall all the way through Ariel Sharon and George
W. Bush – saying that despite the differences, the American-Israeli alliance has
steadily grown stronger.
“I am confident that President Obama understands
that only a sovereign Israeli government can determine what Israel’s interests
are,” he said, referring to the quotation attributed to Obama that Israel under
Netanyahu doesn’t know what its own best interests are.
Asked if he felt
Obama was trying to interfere in the elections, Netanyahu replied, “I think that
everybody understands that the people of Israel determine who will lead the
state, and that only the citizens of Israel can determine what their vital
interests are, and who will protect those interests.”
interview, Netanyahu distanced his party from one of its own members, far-right
activist Moshe Feiglin.
When asked how Likud Beytenu, with Feiglin No. 23
on its candidates list, could throw the “extremist” epithet at Bayit Yehudi, he
said: “I think everybody knows what the Likud list consists of. And to be
honest, I think Feiglin is an exception. All our people support military
service, reject military disobedience, and oppose vehemently separation of
Netanyahu – who knows Bennett well from when the Bayit Yehudi
leader served as his chief of staff from 2006- 2008 – dodged a direct answer
when asked whether he thinks Bennett is “extreme.”
“I’m not rating
anyone, and I am not disqualifying anyone,” the prime minister said. “But I
think it’s important for people to realize that the only way we can lead the
country is to have a very strong ruling party.”
Netanyahu declined to say
who his “dream coalition” would be, and discounted as partisan “spin”
speculation that he favored a coalition with Tzipi Livni over Bennett, or a
coalition with the haredim over one with Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid.
rested and unruffled during a 40-minute pre-election interview, Netanyahu also
said there was no leader better than he to lead Israel in the coming
“I think the people of Israel know that they can rely on me to
stand on our vital national interests, even when it’s hard – and it’s not going
to be easy,” he said. “I don’t think there is anyone better to stand on these
issues and to navigate the shoals of the great international river that is
flowing around us.”
Full 'Post' interview with Netanyahu to be published on Friday.