Ne­tanyahu omits ref­er­ence to two-state so­lu­tion

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - International - RAPHAEL AHREN SYDNEY

Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu omit­ted a ref­er­ence to the two-state so­lu­tion in a joint dec­la­ra­tion Feb. 22 with his Aus­tralian coun­ter­part, Mal­colm Turn­bull. It ap­peared to be the first for­mal man­i­fes­ta­tion of a dra­matic scal­ing back of Israeli sup­port for a two-state so­lu­tion to the Israeli-pales­tinian con­flict, an idea that for years has been pro­moted by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

“Both coun­tries re­stated their sup­port for a di­rectly ne­go­ti­ated peace be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans. Aus­tralia af­firmed its sup­port for a two-state so­lu­tion,” read the dec­la­ra­tion is­sued by Ne­tanyahu and Turn­bull in Sydney, where the prime min­is­ter was on a state visit.

While Is­rael has not ex­plic­itly walked back its pre­vi­ous com­mit­ment to ac­cept, in prin­ci­ple, a de­mil­i­ta­rized Pales­tinian state that rec­og­nizes Is­rael as a Jewish state, the fact that the state­ment cited only Aus­tralia as back­ing the two-state so­lu­tion was telling.

In con­trast, on Nov. 22 – two weeks af­ter Don­ald Trump’s U.S. elec­tion vic­tory but two months be­fore his inau­gu­ra­tion – Is­rael, in a joint dec­la­ra­tion with the Pol­ish gov­ern­ment, said “that a just and last­ing so­lu­tion to the Israeli-pales­tinian con­flict must and can be reached only based on the prin­ci­ple of two states for two peo­ples.”

The os­ten­si­ble change in Jerusalem’s pol­icy is likely the re­sult of the U.S. pres­i­dent’s state­ment last week that he can live with ei­ther a two-state or a one-state so­lu­tion.

“So I’m look­ing at two-state and on­es­tate, and I like the one that both par­ties like,” Trump said in a joint press con­fer­ence with Ne­tanyahu dur­ing the prime min­is­ter’s state visit to Wash­ing­ton. “I’m very happy with the one that both par­ties like. I can live with ei­ther one.”

Ahead of their Feb. 15 meet­ing in the White House, Ne­tanyahu had been un­der pres­sure from his far-right coali­tion part­ners to back away from the idea of Pales­tinian state­hood.

Since his sit-down with Trump, Ne­tanyahu has care­fully avoided re­stat­ing his long-held will­ing­ness to es­tab­lish a Pales­tinian state un­der cer­tain con­di­tions. On the other hand, he has ar­gued that his stance has not changed, and that he is not in­ter­ested in an­nex­ing the West Bank and grant­ing Israeli citizenship to the mil­lions of Pales­tini­ans liv­ing there.

“I want the Pales­tini­ans to be able to gov­ern them­selves and to have all the free­doms to do so, but not the free­dom to de­stroy the Jewish state,” he said re­peat­edly last week when asked about the is­sue.

Dodg­ing ques­tions on the mat­ter from re­porters dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Sydney, Ne­tanyahu said he was in­ter­ested in talk­ing about sub­stance and not la­bels. Pro­po­nents of the two-state so­lu­tion should ex­plain what kind of Pales­tinian state they are seek­ing, he said. “A state that calls for Is­rael’s de­struc­tion? A state whose ter­ri­tory will be used im­me­di­ately for rad­i­cal Is­lam?”

Is­rael with­drew in 2005 from the Gaza Strip, which then be­came a “ter­ror­ist state of Ha­mas,” Ne­tanyahu said. “They fired thou­sands and thou­sands of mis­siles at us. So clearly when peo­ple say they are ‘for’ a Pales­tinian state, they are not ‘for’ that kind of state. What kind of state would they be talk­ing about?”

The first con­di­tion the Pales­tini­ans had to ful­fil was to rec­og­nize Is­rael as a Jewish state, he said, reit­er­at­ing a long-stand­ing po­si­tion.

“Se­condly, we know that in the re­al­i­ties of the Mid­dle East, if Is­rael is not there to en­sure se­cu­rity, then that state very quickly will be­come an­other bas­tion of rad­i­cal Is­lam,” Ne­tanyahu con­tin­ued. “So this is what I’ve been talk­ing about and I’ve been talk­ing about it for eight years. I said we have to make sure that the Pales­tini­ans rec­og­nize the Jewish state and we have to en­sure that Is­rael has the over­rid­ing se­cu­rity con­trol of all the ter­ri­to­ries, all the ter­ri­to­ries.”

Asked how he en­vi­sioned a one-state so­lu­tion, the prime min­is­ter stressed that he does not want to “in­cor­po­rate” mil­lions of Pales­tini­ans into Is­rael. “Nor do I want them as sub­jects of Is­rael. I want them to have all the free­doms to gov­ern them­selves, but none of the pow­ers to threaten us. That is the essence of what we’re sug­gest­ing. Let them gov­ern them­selves but let them not have the mil­i­tary and phys­i­cal power to threaten the State of Is­rael.”

In the Feb. 22 joint dec­la­ra­tion, Aus­tralia reaf­firmed “Is­rael’s right to ex­ist, as the na­tion-state of the Jewish peo­ple, in peace within se­cure bor­ders, and its stead­fast op­po­si­tion to at­tempts to un­der­mine Is­rael’s le­git­i­macy.”

Recog­ni­tion of Is­rael’s sta­tus as the na­tion state of the Jewish peo­ple is a core de­mand Jerusalem has for any peace deal with the Pales­tini­ans, though few in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity have ex­pressed sup­port for it. So far, only Canada, the U.S. and Ger­many have rec­og­nized Is­rael as a Jewish state.

On Iran, an is­sue Ne­tanyahu has long been out­spo­ken about, Aus­tralia and Is­rael agreed that Tehran “must fully im­ple­ment its obli­ga­tions un­der UN Se­cu­rity Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions, and ex­pressed con­cern about Iran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram.”

Both coun­tries also ex­pressed con­cern over Iran’s sup­port for Hezbol­lah and the threat the Iran-al­lied Le­banese Shi­ite ter­ror group “poses to re­gional se­cu­rity.”

Dur­ing Ne­tanyahu’s four-day visit to Sydney, the first by a sit­ting Israeli prime min­is­ter, Is­rael and Can­berra signed three bi­lat­eral agree­ments and agreed to fur­ther en­hance po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic co-op­er­a­tion.

I want them to have all the free­doms to gov­ern them­selves.

Times of Is­rael Time­sofis­rael.com

HAIM ZACH/GPO/FLASH 90 PHOTO

Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, right, meets with Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull in Sydney, Aus­tralia, on Feb. 22.

FLASH 90 PHOTO

Pales­tinian chil­dren play soc­cer in the West Bank.

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