Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not retract his support for the creation of a Palestinian state when he meets with US President Donald Trump in Washington on Wednesday, Netanyahu made clear in Sunday’s security cabinet meeting.
When Bayit Yehudi ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked called on Netanyahu to speak out against the creation of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu told them of a conversation with Trump in which the president told him he thinks he can make peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Hours earlier, Netanyahu said that Trump will not give Israel free rein to do what it wants.
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“Even after eight years of complex navigation in the tenure of [former US president Barack] Obama, we still need to continue to act wisely with the Trump administration,” Netanyahu told the ministers in his party, before the weekly cabinet meeting. “While it is a more comfortable administration [to work with], there will still be restrictions.”
Netanyahu has publicly accepted the principle of a two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict since his public address on the matter at Bar-Ilan University upon entering office in 2009.
But his coalition’s right flank, the Bayit Yehudi party, as well as members of his own Likud party, have pressured him to back away from that position, particularly given that support for a Palestinian state is not part of the US Republican Party’s platform.
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) warned that if Netanyahu were to disavow the Bar-Ilan speech, it would harm Israel internationally.
But the voices of caution were drowned out on Sunday by right-wing politicians who also called on Netanyahu to annex Area C of the West Bank.
Speaking at a sovereignty conference in Jerusalem, sponsored by the organization Women in Green, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said she had told Netanyahu already last week that “your political base requires sovereignty.”
Environment and Jerusalem Heritage Minister Ze’ev Elkin, also of the Likud, said, “There is no doubt that the conversation with regard to Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank has become a significant component of the political discourse, and that is undoubtedly a great achievement.”
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said that the Israeli position Netanyahu presents to Trump with regard to Palestinian statehood and sovereignty would impact the Trump administration’s stance on the matter.
“It won’t be more Zionist than Netanyahu,” Dagan said as he urged Netanyahu to stand strong.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee told the conference in a video message that the Trump administration marked a “new day of you knowing that your friends are with you. I wish upon you the courage to be bold and to do that which is necessary to secure your homeland. This is not land that you occupy. This is land that you own, and you have a right to live there.”
Since taking office, Trump has not put forward a position with regard to a Palestinian state.
But he has spoken about his desire to be the one to make a deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The White House said his administration does not believe settlements are a stumbling block to peace. Trump has not condemned Israeli settlement activity, but he has said that it is not helpful.
The right-wing has presumed that Netanyahu hopes to come to an agreement with Trump, in which the peace process with the Palestinians would move forward with an understanding that Israel can build in the settlement blocs but would freeze the isolated settlements.
They feel that this is the moment to come up with alternative solutions to the idea of two states and to speak of imposing Israeli sovereignty, in short, to annex Area C of the West Bank.
Prior to the cabinet’s weekly meeting, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) said, “The Republican Party has taken the idea of a Palestinian state out of its platform. There is no reason for a right-wing Israeli government to be more left than the Republican Party.” She called on Netanyahu to present Trump with alternatives to a Palestinian state.
In his opening remarks to the cabinet before its closed-door session, Netanyahu spoke of his meeting with Trump, in which it is expected that three primary topics will be addressed: Iran, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He spoke globally and did not mention the issue of Palestinian statehood.
“Tomorrow I leave for Washington to meet with President Donald Trump. We’ve known each other for many years, but this is our first meeting in which he is president of the United States and I am the prime minister of Israel.
“This meeting is very important for Israel’s security, and for the State of Israel’s international standing, which has been gaining strength,” said Netanyahu.
He added that it is significant for Israel’s national interests as well.
Netanyahu told the ministers that he has held many consultations in the past days, including with the IDF, the Defense Ministry, the National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry.
“I understand that there is a lot of excitement ahead of this meeting and there are many motivations behind this. I have only one motivation – first and foremost to take care of Israel’s security, to strengthen its alliance with the US and to shore up our national interests, which are intimately linked with a strong bond with the US.
“This requires a responsible policy, this requires discrete judgment and that is how I am going to operate. I have wisely steered Israeli-US relations and will continue to do so even now,” Netanyahu continued.
He spoke at length with ministers about his upcoming trip at a security cabinet meeting, which focused on Iran as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz of the Likud told Netanyahu that when speaking with Trump, he should push for sovereignty in Jerusalem and its surrounding areas, as well as continued building in Jerusalem and the blocs.Maariv contributed to this report.