Israel will not become a bi-national state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, in a response to US Secretary of State John Kerry who, in a speech on Saturday, said the trend lines were leading in that direction.
“I want to make clear, Israel will not be a bi-national state – but in order for there to be peace, the other side also has to decide it wants peace. Unfortunately, that is not what we see,” he said.
Instead, Netanyahu said, the PA continues to incite against Israel, something he said “has to stop.”
Netanyahu slammed the PA’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat for making a condolence call Saturday to the family of Mazen Aribah, a PA intelligence officer who was shot dead by the IDF after he shot and wounded two Israelis
north of Jerusalem on Thursday.
Netanyahu said that when Erekat not only does not condemn the terrorist acts, but actually pays a condolence call on the family of a terrorist, he “gives backing and encouragement to acts of terror.”
Netanyahu did not mention Erekat by name, only using his title as chief negotiator.
Kerry, speaking Saturday at the Brookings Institution’s annual Saban Forum examining relations between the US and Israel, issued a rare, unfiltered rebuke of both Israeli and Palestinian leadership, questioning their commitment to peace and warning of the dangers of a bi-national state if a two-state solution is not reached.
Kerry warned of a collapse of the Palestinian Authority and said Israel’s continued settlement activity suggested a government design for “unilateral annexation” of the West Bank.
He also condemned diplomats, scholars and politicians who are “pretending” that the status quo was a sustainable reality for either party. “We one-state solution would actually look like,” he said.
Kerry, who led an unsuccessful round of negotiations between the parties in 2013 and 2014, painted a bleak picture of a future for Israel if a Palestinian state were not created.
“The truth is that many of those arguing against the PA simply don’t believe in two states,” Kerry said.
“How does Israel possibly maintain its character as a Jewish and democratic state when, from the river to the sea, there would not even be a Jewish majority?” he asked. “Would millions of Palestinians be given basic rights of Israeli citizens, including the right to vote? Or would they be relegated to a permanent underclass?” While he said Israel’s settlement building was “absolutely” not an excuse for violence, Kerry said it calls into question Israel’s actual commitment to the peace process.
“The one-state solution is not a solution at all,” he said. “It is simply not a viable option.”
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water minister Yuval Steinitz responded to Kerry’s comments by saying Israel does not have a partner for the diplomatic process, and that “it is a shame that instead of recognizing that, Secretary Kerry hints that Israel is to blame.”
“We are interested in a diplomatic arrangement, but not one at any price and with impossible conditions,” Steinitz told reporters before the cabinet meeting. “If the alternative is to demand from Israel a plan that has suicidal elements – an arrangement whose consequences will be that what happened in Gaza will repeat itself in Judea and Samaria and the suburbs of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and on Road 6 – then that is a worse alternative and we have to avoid it.”
Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, the head of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Israel Radio that Kerry’s comment reflected his “deep despair” resulting from the failure of the negotiations he brokered.
Hanegbi said Kerry tried to describe in “demonic terms” a bi-national state, but that there was a consensus in Israel against that possibility and a determination not to enable one to be created.
Hanegbi said Kerry’s speech seemed to be an indication that he was being led by his emotions, and that it would have been better if Kerry had pointed his finger “at the one who left the [negotiating] room, showed no flexibility and, in effect, did not agree – contrary to Israel – to any component of the parameters that Kerry wanted to move forward.
Later on Sunday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s acquisition of land defending its borders in 1967 is not at root of its conflict with the Palestinians.
“The Palestinians have not yet been willing to cross that conceptual bridge, that emotional bridge, of giving up the dream – not of a state next to Israel, but a state instead of Israel,” Netanyahu said. His comments were in a videotaped message to the Saban Forum.
Netanyahu has long called for the PA to recognize Israel as a Jewish state on the model that two states should exist side by side for two peoples. Palestinian leadership refuses to do so.
The Israeli premier said his country had learned several important lessons from Gaza when Israel unilaterally withdrew from the territory. The strip of land is now controlled by Hamas, recognized as a terrorist organization by Israel, the European Union and the US.
Netanyahu also offered extensive comment on the events that took place last week in San Bernardino, California, where two self-declared sympathizers of Islamic State rampaged through a disability clinic.
“Nobody should underestimate the resilience and power of our societies.
Nobody should underestimate the United States. It was and remains, and will be the leader of the world precisely because it is so rooted in the values that make societies great,” he said.
“And these are the same values by which we live, and that’s why nobody should underestimate Israel – and nobody should underestimate the strength of our alliance.”