Palestinians furious over Netanyahu claims that Israel must 'crush' statehood ambitions

The veteran Israeli politician has revealed his true goal, critics say: no Palestinian state and a Palestinian Authority that serves only as Israel’s “subcontractor”

Netanyahu and Abbas (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu and Abbas
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Palestinian officials are enraged by reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told an Israeli parliamentary committee Monday that he rejects an independent Palestinian state but is also not interested in the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) demise.

For more stories from The Media Line go to

Palestinian hopes of establishing a sovereign state “must be eliminated,” Netanyahu told Knesset (Israeli parliament) committee members in a closed-door meeting about his government’s plans for the eventual departure of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We are preparing for the period after Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas],” Netanyahu said, adding that Israel “need[s] the Palestinian Authority. We must not allow it to collapse.”

The Israeli prime minister said his government was ready to offer economic support to the PA based in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Netanyahu’s remarks were reported on a radio news program owned by KAN, the Israeli public broadcaster.

The Palestinian Authority's response to Netanyahu's remarks on statehood

In an official response, Hussein al-Sheikh, civil affairs minister for the PA, rejected Netanyahu’s remarks. “The role of the Palestinian Authority is to achieve the Palestinian national project of freedom, independence, and protection of the Palestinian people,” Sheikh said. The PA “has not and will not accept anything other than this national and historical role.”

Palestinians have long sought to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, alongside Israel. This arrangement is popularly known as the “two-state solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an IDF ceremony on June 29, 2023 (credit: CHAIM ZACH / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an IDF ceremony on June 29, 2023 (credit: CHAIM ZACH / GPO)

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office did not deny Netanyahu’s comments. If accurate, Palestinian leaders say, the comments prove the premier’s “true motives.” In years past, Netanyahu has offered perfunctory support for the internationally backed notion of an independent Palestinian state, provided it had no military or security power.

Netanyahu’s statements aroused widespread anger in other Palestinian political quarters.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Abbas’ spokesperson, said that establishing an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, is the only solution to achieve long-term security and stability.

“Netanyahu may not hope for the collapse of the PA, publicly at least, but his goal is clear: Keep it as weak as can be,” an aide to President Abbas told The Media Line. The aide, who requested anonymity, insisted that the PA is a “national achievement” that no one, including Netanyahu, can change.

“The alternative to the PA collapse is chaos, and it will mean the end of the Oslo Accords and any peace process,” he said.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders signed the first and second Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995. In those agreements, Palestinian leaders recognized Israel’s right to exist in return for Israel’s recognition of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.

Many assumed those agreements would eventually lead to a two-state solution. However, Talks remain frozen, and the Palestine Authority has limited control over roughly 40% of the West Bank. In Gaza, a Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas, seized power from the PA in 2007.

“We know what we want, but Israel can’t seem to get itself to say clearly and publicly what it wants. We are at the mercy of those who are controlling the government, whose main goal is to appease their electoral base,” the PA aide argued.

US-based Palestinian affairs expert Hasan Awwad told The Media Line that the collapse of the PA is “underway” and “inevitable” as its effectiveness is “dismal.”

“Israel has been increasing its settlement expansion, making it impossible to create a Palestinian state. There is no political horizon, and Palestinians don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Awwad said.

Many believe Netanyahu began implementing a plan to eliminate the possibility of a viable Palestinian state years ago. The Israeli leader, who chairs the right-wing Likud party, ruled the country from 1996 to 1999, 2009 to 2021, and January this year.

During that time, critics say, his governments have expanded West Bank settlements and built new roads in such a way as to exclude the establishment of a territorially contiguous, sovereign Palestinian state.

Since retaking office in January, the veteran Israeli politician’s ruling coalition, which is more religious and nationalist than its predecessors, has approved building over 7,000 new housing units for Jewish Israelis living in West Bank settlements.

Many in the international community regard those settlements as violations of the Geneva Conventions and an impediment to peace. However, Netanyahu and his coalition partners regard the settlements as Jewish return to an area they once ruled.

Ahmad Rafiq Awad, president of the Center for Jerusalem Studies at Al-Quds University, told The Media Line, “It is clear that Netanyahu was never an advocate of a two-state solution.” Now, Awad says, Netanyahu has “finally revealed his real strategy: he is not serious about having a neighboring Palestinian state.”

Unlike ministers in his government who have called for an end to PA rule in parts of the West Bank, however, Netanyahu does not want the Ramallah-based authority to disappear. Instead, Awad says, Netanyahu wants the PA to help Israel “manage the occupation and maintain the status quo.”

The Ramallah-based authority, Awwad says, “has helped whitewash Israeli occupation legally, morally, and financially.” Netanyahu wants “an agent that does the dirty work for Israel, and the PA does part of that,” he added.

Palestinian forces are responsible for municipal services and internal security in the West Bank’s areas A and B. In practice, Palestinian police often tacitly cooperate with the Israeli military in its pursuit of suspects.

Palestinian political institutions are under increasing economic pressure. For example, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh warned recently that his agency was not receiving its regular disbursements of international aid, threatening its ability to continue operations.

Moien Odeh, a specialist in Palestinian affairs, human rights, and international law, told The Media Line that Netanyahu’s remarks are, in fact, nothing new.

Israel, Odeh says, has always regarded the PA as “a subcontractor” responsible for Palestinians’ “daily needs” and some of Israel’s “security concerns.” It also offers Israel relief from international pressure to maintain a semblance of political negotiations and provide for some of the Palestinians’ needs.

Now, however, “Netanyahu said explicitly that the Palestine Authority is the end [goal], not a step toward [an eventual Palestinian] state,” as others have assumed since Oslo. “Of course,” Odeh says, “the policy and actions of all Israeli governments have always been in this direction.”

The Palestinian Authority has failed to unite Palestinians, Odeh says, and its fate has always been “linked to Israel in most or even all respects.” The authority cannot “survive without Israeli and international support and funding,” keeping it “permanently hostage to aid.”