Top minister defies Netanyahu on Palestinian statehood

Times of Israel:

Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday brushed off Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration in Washington of support for a two-state solution, and argued that the notion of an independent Palestinian state was fading.

 “The era of a Palestinian state is coming to a close,” Bennett, who heads the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, told Israel Radio.

“I believe that it is absurd to just form another Arab state that’s bound to become an Islamic outpost,” he added, conceding that it was a subject on which he was deeply at odds with the prime minister. “I think the Palestinian issue is diminishing, and it is about time to prepare for the day after and to lay out for ourselves what the Israeli national interest is.”

Bennett called for the application of Israeli law to the Etzion bloc and other large settlement regions in the West Bank’s Area C, which is under full Israeli military administration, and said that Israel should not fear a harsh international response to such a move, because having the Jewish state as an ally was greatly beneficial to the West.

“The American interest in Israel is much deeper than the Palestinian issue,” he maintained, explaining that “Israel is the forward position of the free world in the campaign against jihad.”

In return for supporting Israel, the US and the West maintained a valuable ally in the battle against radical Islamism, he argued. “Every day we are fighting the fight of the free world to protect ourselves and the free world from jihad.”

Netanyahu had voiced support for Palestinian statehood during a press appearance with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office ahead of a meeting Monday, the first between the two men in a year.

During the closed-door meeting, which Netanyahu’s aides described as “good,” the two leaders reportedly agreed on an increase to American defense aid to Israel, both immediately and in the coming decade. The particulars of the deal, however, still need to be hammered out.

Bennett also came out against a planned package of goodwill gestures toward the Palestinians, which Netanyahu is expected to present to US Secretary of State John Kerry in a meeting Tuesday. The initiatives are part of Israel’s effort to curb a recent surge of violence that has seen almost-daily Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank.

 “The last thing you need to do in the face of a terror wave is to give them gestures,” he said. “Why does the American approach always have to be accompanied with gifts to the side that is murdering us?”

Good question.


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