Israeli Official: Netanyahu Seeking Unilateral Move to Separate From Palestinians
by Joshua Levitt
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel “must separate from the Palestinians,” Bloomberg News reported on Friday, citing an unnamed official source.
No further details were provided by the source, but the news agency noted that the language “was reminiscent of the term ‘disengagement’ that Israel used to refer to its 2005 withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip, carried out unilaterally under then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the absence of peacemaking.”
In the face of a unity pact reached between the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah party and Gaza’s rival Hamas party, which has refused to renounce violence or amend its statutes that call for the destruction of Israel, Netanyahu has said his government will consider unilateral action in response.
Netanyahu told Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg last month that “he noted that some Israelis favor disengaging from sections of the West Bank with large Palestinian populations, even if this would mean dismantling Jewish settlements.”
In the interview, Netanyahu said, “It’s true that the idea of taking unilateral steps is gaining ground, from the center-left to the center-right… Many Israelis are asking themselves if there are certain unilateral steps that could theoretically make sense.”
The next day, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman declared opposition to Netanyahu’s plan, saying “no one should take any steps that undermine trust, including unilateral.”
On Friday, Bloomberg cited a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute-Tel Aviv University Peace Index, a monthly poll conducted by the Midgam Research Institute, that found that 60 percent of the country’s Jews surveyed in late May oppose unilateral withdrawal. More than two-thirds of the country’s 20-percent Arab minority support it.
The New York Times on Friday also quoted an unnamed Israeli official who pointed a finger at the U.S. for allowing the unity pact to move forward through its declaration of support for the inclusion of Hamas, which is classified by the U.S. State Department as an international terror organization.
The Times said Israeli officials were assured by the Americans “that the U.S. would take a wait-and-see attitude with the new Palestinian government.” But the newspaper cited one Israeli official, who said, “Instead of taking a standoff approach, they, in effect, became the first government in the world to recognize the Palestinian government… They essentially became the first domino.”
The newspaper also cited an unnamed U.S. official, who insisted that “We’re not naive.”
“We understand that this could be Hamas’ nose under the tent, that it could lead Hamas to get a foothold in the West Bank, that terrorist cells could spring up in the West Bank again under a looser regime. So we’re watching all of that very carefully to ensure that that doesn’t happen,” the U.S. official told The Times.