Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein explained why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes his support for a Palestinian state is currently irrelevant, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post’s Election Arena.
Edelstein said the current Palestinian leadership is not about to give up its maximalist demands on territory and refugees.
Nevertheless, officials in US President Barack Obama’s administration have been quoted saying they intend to renew efforts to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians after the March 17 election.
“Netanyahu understands that statements he made about supporting a two-state solution are irrelevant because of the situation in the region and the Palestinian position,” he said. “It’s nice to play ping pong with ourselves. The only situation can be to manage the conflict so there will be as little terrorism as possible and to offer cooperation on water resources, agriculture and environment.”
Edelstein said he does not believe that after the election the Israeli prime minister will be challenged to set permanent borders.
“Right now you can talk about one state, two states, 15 states, it doesn’t take you anywhere,” Edelstein said.
“Even if [Meretz leader] Zehava Gal- On becomes prime minister, she wouldn’t sign a permanent agreement with the Palestinians, because right now their leader would not be able to sell any agreement with Israel that would make any concessions.
Right now, for them it’s about having it all. There would be no compromise.”
Edelstein said he has no doubt that President Reuven Rivlin would task Netanyahu with forming the next government, which he said he hoped would not include The Zionist Union. He criticized the prospect of a national unity government.
“The two parties have basically opposite views,” he said. “I have difficulty seeing how the two parties, which have such different basic points of view, can operate together, not just to survive but for the good of the country. I’m afraid a unity government would lead to a dead end very quickly.”
Edelstein was among several Israeli and international public figures whom Netanyahu tried to persuade to challenge Rivlin for the presidency, because of personal animosity between Rivlin and Netanyahu.
Channel 2 reported that in the event of a tight finish between the Likud and The Zionist Union, Rivlin would push for a unity government.
Asked whether, in light of that report, Edelstein regrets rejecting Netanyahu’s offer to run for president, he said he does not even consider giving up the Knesset speaker job, after not much more than a year on the job.
“I respect Rivlin, but the decision is with the voters,” he said. “If the Likud will be strong enough and big enough to form a national coalition, this will be the government.
But his behavior is natural for a president who symbolizes unity. When there is a clear cut victory of one side, no one talks about a national unity government.”