Netanyahu: Any deal with PA will necessitate long-term Israeli presence in West Bank

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
With the international community expected to step up pressure on Israel to come up with initiatives to move the diplomatic process with the Palestinians forward, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that any agreement would necessitate a long-term Israeli presence throughout the West Bank.
In a comprehensive press briefing with diplomatic reporters, Netanyahu said that the real question is not where the borders will be, but, rather, “what will be on the other side of that border.”
“The first problem is what will be the nature of the regime on the other side,” he said.
“Who will be in charge of the security in areas where Israel leaves?” Netanyahu said that when he is assured by various international interlocutors that Israel’s security needs will be taken care of, he asks, “by whom?” “Who will deal with the tunnels?” he asked. “Who will prevent the smuggling of weapons? Who will prevent the manufacturing of weapons?” The prime minister said that he will ask these questions “again and again and again,” and said the recent elections show that he has the backing of the public on this issue.
“That is why I am sitting here,” he said.
“My position remains a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state,” Netanyahu said. “If the Palestinians would consider other options, we would be in a different place.”
The security concerns about a Palestinian state were not a trick or way to get out of making a deal but, rather, a “real problem,” he said.
Netanyahu’s comments came on the same day that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced that he will be coming to Israel next month – one of a half-dozen European foreign ministers who will be visiting in June.
Fabius told a French radio station that he will travel to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to try to revive the peace process and persuade all sides to accept a French UN Security Council resolution that would set parameters for talks.
“We are for a two-state solution. We need to ensure Israel’s security, that’s obvious. But there is no peace and security without justice for the Palestinians, but let’s be frank: Justice hasn’t been given to the Palestinians,” Fabius said.
Paris recently handed a working document to Arab League countries in preparation of a Security Council resolution that would set a time frame and the exact parameters of new peace talks between Israelis and the Palestinians, French diplomats have said.
Netanyahu, not referring directly to the French move, said he would like to see a “more balanced effort” from the Europeans. For that reason, he added, he is conducting a dialogue with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who visited last week.
The position that the prime minister articulated to Mogherini during their talks was that since it is clear that there will be settlement blocs that remain in Israel’s hands, Europe should support Israeli construction in the areas that will clearly remain part of Israel, as well as Palestinian construction in areas that will clearly become part of a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu said that he held a “sharp conversation” with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier in the week about efforts inside the UN trying to equate Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children to actions of terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram and Islamic State.
He said that these comparisons may start with Israel, but they risk destroying international norms.
On political matters, the prime minister said that he will bring the composition of his security cabinet to the full cabinet on Sunday for its approval.
During the coalition talks, Netanyahu promised more ministers a seat in the security cabinet than was possible, with 11 ministers vying for 10 seats. He said that the problem will be solved through rotation, with National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz rotating after a year with Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin. When one minister is not a formal member of the body, he will be involved as an observer.
Netanyahu repeated that he was holding the Foreign Ministry open in the eventuality that another party joins the government, but until that happens – and if it does not – he intends to serve in that position fully.
Reuters contributed to this report.