(photo credit: AP)
The Palestinians should have the right to govern themselves, but not to threaten Israel, Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu said, in an interview published Saturday in the run-up to his scheduled meeting Tuesday with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In the interview with The Washington Post, Netanyahu was asked if he believed in a two-state solution as president George W. Bush outlined in 2002.
"Substantively, I think there is broad agreement inside Israel and outside that the Palestinians should have the ability to govern their lives, but not to threaten ours," he said.
It was his first interview with the foreign media since President Shimon Peres gave him the nod to form a government a little over a week ago, and appeared to be an effort to calm concerns abroad that a government he would lead would not be committed to a diplomatic process.
Netanyahu's comments about the two states is in line with what he has been telling international leaders for months about his overall diplomatic vision: that the Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves, but not the handful of powers that could endanger Israel's security.
The powers that Netanyahu wants to exclude from a future Palestinian state are:
â€¢ The right to build an army. Netanyahu wants to ensure that a future Palestinian state be demilitarized and only have police and internal security forces of limited scope and armaments.
â€¢ The right to make treaties with any country it wants.Netanyahu wants to prevent a situation where a Palestinian state could make a defensive pact with a country such as Iran.
â€¢ The right to control its air space. Among Netanyahu's concerns is that if an airliner flying into Ben-Gurion Airport flies a few hundred meters into Palestinian airspace, the new state could feel it within its right to take down the plane
â€¢ The right to control the water supply. Since Israel's water supply is to a large extent under the Palestinian territories, Netanyahu does not want to yield complete control over the water to a Palestinian state.
â€¢ The right to control the electromagnetic spectrum, which refers to radio, television and microwave transmissions, over which Netanyahu believes Israel must, for security reasons, retain some control.
The restrictions the Netanyahu wants to see imposed on a Palestinian state are very much in line with one of Israel's 14 reservations to the road map peace plan that were presented to the US in 2003.
The fifth reservation stated that a provisional Palestinian state would be "fully demilitarized with no military forces, but only with police and internal security forces of limited scope and armaments, be without the authority to undertake defense alliances or military cooperation, and [with] Israeli control over the entry and exit of all persons and cargo, as well as of its air space and electromagnetic spectrum."
At the time, Netanyahu agreed to abstain on the road map vote when then-prime minister Ariel Sharon brought it to the cabinet only if these 14 reservations were included.
Netanyahu, in The Washington Post interview, said he would continue the diplomatic talks with the Palestinians and "at the same time advance the economic development that has begun and also strengthen the Palestinian security forces. I personally intend to take charge of a government committee that will regularly address the needs of the Palestinian economy in the West Bank."
This is consistent with his belief that instead of imposing an agreement from the "top down," it is necessary to build things from the "bottom up," starting with a better economic situation and the development of effective and professional Palestinian security forces - the latter of which the US is trying to do through US envoy Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton.
Netanyahu was also asked in the interview about his recent comments that Hamas should be toppled.
"Hamas is incompatible with peace," he said, adding that "I hope that the Palestinians in Gaza find the ability to change this regime, because we want to have peace with all the Palestinians.
"Right now, what we should do is enable humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza but not in such a way as it enables Hamas to buy more rockets," he said.
The Likud chairman has made clear in recent weeks that while he does believe that Hamas will have to be toppled, that does not necessarily mean by another IDF military operation, and that other options - a combination of military, political, and economic means - needed to be considered.
In a related development, the Middle East Quartet is expected to meet on the sidelines of the Gaza reconstruction conference to be held in Egypt on Monday.
Clinton will take part in a Quartet meeting for the first time, along with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Clinton is scheduled to arrive here after the reconstruction conference Monday evening.