PM stance on Palestinian contiguity debated

Officials dispute interpretations that Netanyahu nodded to Palestinian territorial contiguity during CNN interview.

Netanyahu interview with CNN 370 (photo credit: Screenshot)
Netanyahu interview with CNN 370
(photo credit: Screenshot)
Government officials played down Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comments in a CNN interview this week expressing a seeming willingness for Palestinian contiguity, saying he was referring to the West Bank, and not necessarily a physical link from it to Gaza.
Netanyahu, the officials said, has not publicly articulated a position on what he believes a link or “safe passage” between the West Bank and Gaza should look like in a possible future agreement.
In a CNN interview that aired Tuesday, Erin Burnett asked Netanyahu whether he thought the Palestinians should have a country that “is contiguous, not islands here and islands there, but one space.”
Netanyahu said “yes,” but was then cut off before he could elaborate.
Later in the interview Burnett again returned to the issue, and said she wanted to be clear that a future state – which Netanyahu clarified must be demilitarized – “isn’t separated by Israel, as in there is a Palestine part here, Israel... ” Netanyahu said this was not what he was referring to, which would be “Swiss cheese.”
Burnett said in her narrative of the interview that the use of the word contiguous is significant, and that there was a “lot of weight in that particular word.”
Government officials pointed out, however, that Netanyahu actually never used the word.
One official said that the prime minister was trying to rebut Palestinian claims that what he had in mind for a future Palestinian state were Palestinian cantons surrounded by Israel.
Netanyahu also stressed in the interview that a future Palestinian state would have to be demilitarized.
When challenged that this would not be a “real state,” he replied, “Well, demilitarized is a real state. It just means that they can’t field the armies. They can’t fire rockets. We want to make sure that if we have a peace arrangement, we walk away from certain areas that they won’t be used a third time by Iran and its Palestinian proxies to fire rockets on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu said Israel did not want to run Palestinian lives. “I don’t want to govern the Palestinians. I don’t want them as subjects of Israel or as citizens of Israel. I want them to have their own independent state but a demilitarized state.”
During the interview, Netanyahu artfully dodged questions about the US presidential elections, and poured water on the depiction by The New York Times of his “warm friendship, little known to outsiders” with Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Netanyahu said that after working at the same consulting firm with Romney in Boston 35 years ago, he did not meet him again until many years later when he was finance minister and Romney was the governor of Massachusetts.
Asked whether Romney was his friend, and whether he “likes him,” Netanyahu replied: “Well, look, here’s an answer that will – should satisfy you. I respect Mitt Romney as I respect Barack Obama, the president of the United States. And that’s the end of the ranking and the questions that you will undoubtedly try again and again to draw me into.”