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March 1, 2017 7:28 am

Netanyahu Focuses on Israeli Security, Drifts Away From Two-State Solution

avatar by Alex Traiman /JNS.org

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: GPO.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: GPO.

JNS.org – For the second time in a month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed the leader of a major Western power that Israel will retain full security control over all of the disputed territories in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu told Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that Israel would never give up its military presence in Judea and Samaria (commonly known as the West Bank), according to Israel Radio. This statement mirrors the comments that Netanyahu made in mid-February during his press conference with US President Donald Trump.

At the White House, Netanyahu said that Israel “must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River…because otherwise we’ll get another radical Islamic terrorist state in the Palestinian areas.”

Dr. Khalil Shikaki, director of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), believes that Netanyahu’s approach will make full Palestinian sovereignty impossible.

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“I can’t possibly see that the same person would think this is a two-state solution. Where is the second state? There is only one state. There is a state and a protectorate, but there is not a two-state solution,” Shikaki told JNS.org.

“But I am sure the prime minister knows fully that this is either a good bargaining position to take at the beginning of negotiations, or that he is obviously not interested in a two-state … outcome,” he said.

After the White House summit, most press outlets — rather than focusing on Netanyahu’s comments — chose to focus on Trump’s ambiguous answer when asked if he supported a two-state solution. Trump said, “So I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization for America (ZOA), said that Trump’s comments brought an abrupt end to 16 years of carefully-worded support — by both Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama — for a two-state solution.

“[Donald Trump] has single-handedly changed the conversation,” Klein told JNS.org. “The issue now is whether we can get to peace, as opposed to whether we can get to a Palestinian state.”

Is a two-state solution practical?

A recent poll by Shikaki’s PSR, together with the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, showed that 50 percent of Israeli Jews and 44% of Palestinians living in the West Bank support a two-state solution. But the same study also showed that more than 80% of Israeli Jews and 72% of Palestinians do not believe that a Palestinian state will be established in the next five years.

Shikaki explained that “the idea of a one-state solution is something that more and more Palestinians are turning to. There is a very strong tendency among Palestinians and Israelis to conclude that the two-state solution is no longer practical. And as a result, they start looking for alternatives. But none of these alternatives seem to garner as much support as there still is for a two-state solution.”

ZOA’s Klein argued that it is easy for Palestinians to support a two-state solution because “Israel is already a state. So when they say they support a two-state solution, what that means is that they support a Palestinian state.” Klein contends that the inability of Palestinians to recognize Israeli sovereignty, and their unwillingness to have any Jews live in a future Palestinian state, underscores the dangers of Israel making concessions for peace.

Jews in Judea

Klein says that we should ask Palestinians “whether they support Israel as a Jewish state. Ask them whether they support not allowing any so-called Palestinian refugees moving into Israel. Ask them if they support 800,000 Jews living within the confines of a Palestinian state, and you’ll get different answers.”

Shikaki noted that one past proposal that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have floated on the issue of Israeli settlements is “to ask [Jews in the disputed territories] to live under Palestinian sovereignty if they wish to stay.” He said, however, that the Israeli public has never favored such a plan.

Yet removing hundreds of thousands of Jews from Judea and Samaria doesn’t seem to be an option. In his press conference with Trump, Netanyahu said that “Jews are called Jews because they come from Judea. This is our ancestral homeland. Jews are not foreign colonialists in Judea.”

Demand for a one-state solution

By mentioning the possibility of US support for a one-state solution, Shikaki thinks that Trump has,“contributed to making the two-state solution less viable, and thereby increasing the demand for the one-state solution.”

“Trump’s mere statement, therefore, has played essentially the same role [in the peace process] as the failure of negotiations, settlement construction, etc. All these things have in the past convinced the majority of Palestinians and Israelis that the viability of the two-state solution is questioned,” Shikaki said.

Israelis may have arrived at the same conclusion, but from a different angle.

While on a recent trip to meet with Israeli policymakers, Klein said he found that “almost no people are talking about supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

“My sense,” Klein added, “is that people now understand that a Palestinian state would be a Hamas-Fatah terrorist state, and that the reason there is no peace has nothing to do with the Jews in Judea and Samaria. They now seem to understand that it is because the Palestinian Authority refuses to sit down and negotiate, and because they continue to promote hatred and violence in every element of their culture, and [to] pay salaries to families who produce killers.”

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