Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the charge that Palestinians live in an apartheid-like situation in the West Bank, telling NBC that the real danger in that region is the ethnic cleansing of Jews.
“It’s hogwash,” Netanyahu told NBC correspondent Rafael Sanchez in an interview published on Tuesday when quizzed about apartheid allegations.
“The whole idea of... ethnic cleansing this what we're talking about,” Netanyahu said. He attacked those who believe that the evacuation of West Bank settlements is necessary for peace.
There are those who say that “we should get rid of the Jews because otherwise, we can't have peace,” Netanyahu said.
Such statements are akin to “saying to me that the million and more Israeli citizens who are Arabs should be kicked out because we can’t have peace unless we have a cleansed state.”
In the end, he said, Israelis and Palestinians are “going to have to live together in creative arrangements.”
The majority of Israelis “do not want Israel to simply walk out from Judea Samaria, the so-called West back because we tried it,” Netanyahu said. He pointed to the entrenchment of the Iranian proxy Hezbollah in southern Lebanon after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal there in 2000. Hamas, which is also an Iranian-backed proxy, took over Gaza a year after Israel pulled out Netanyahu said.
“Any peace arrangement would have Israel responsible for security because it's a tiny area, Netanyahu said, even though that means less than full sovereignty for the Palestinians.
“If we just give that sovereign power of security to the Palestinians right next to us,” then Iran moves in, Netanyahu said.
Why Israel isn't an apartheid state
The absence of a Palestinian military does not mean that there is an apartheid system, Netanyahu said in reference to the West Bank.
It's a region that is divided between the Palestinian Authority which controls areas A and B and the IDF which has military and civilian control of Area C. Palestinians living in the region can vote for the Palestinian Authority but have no voting rights in sovereign Israel.
Palestinians "can vote for their own parliament. They have their own flag, their own anthem, their own administration. “The one thing they shouldn't have control is control over is security because security means that they'll fall prey to terrorism and we'll fall prey to Iran's terrorist proxies,” Netanyahu said.
He dismissed the importance of extremist statements by some members of the government such as Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich who heads the Religious Zionist Party and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir who heads the Otzma Yehudit Party.
“A lot of these statements have been walked back… They're changing their tune and more importantly, it's not what we say, it's what we do,” Netanyahu said.
He pointed to a decision his security cabinet took earlier this summer to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, a move which has the support of eight out of 10 cabinet members.
“It’s the actions that count and the words well, I don’t control the words," Netanyahu, but he said that those words were "changing as we go along."